Clearance and Design (1804-1809)
September 7, 1804
A major hurricane skirts the Georgia coastline, but next day roars ashore near Beaufort, South Carolina. Charleston and its outlying communities suffer numerous fatalities and extensive damage from howling rains, and a prodigious storm-surge. Flood-tides rise ten feet above normal and swamp the city streets, before this hurricane finally moves back out to sea and continues 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 on the Catawba River — 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.
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 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 it all 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 not yet arrived from Washington, either, 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, 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 bricks — which will then be used to start a new enclosure a short distance behind the old redoubt’s wave-battered remnants.
Meanwhile in Washington, 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.]
August 10, 1808
In a progress-report to Washington, Macomb mentions how the “whole of the interior and exterior revetment” of the new Fort Moultrie’s rampart has been completed, and is “ready to receive the parapet.”
November 1, 1808
After absenting himself briefly from Charleston, Macomb returns to find Forts Johnson and Mechanic finished, while Moultrie only lacks the completion of its gateway, scheduled to be installed by year’s end. The young engineering officer proudly writes 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.
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 furthermore requests and receives 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.
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 mounted, with a brick magazine and barracks for two companies.” For a more detailed account of Macomb’s 1811 diagram of his finished work, see its separate entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”
Minor Changes and Deterioration (1810-1835)
On orders from Washington, 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 19, 1812
After two weeks of debate in Congress, the U.S. Senate confirms a declaration of war against Great Britain by a 19-13 vote, because of repeated impressments of American sailors, interference with neutral trade, and incitement of native tribes. The Royal Navy soon imposes a blockade along the Atlantic Seaboard, reducing commerce.
A British expedition disembarks in Chesapeake Bay and burns much of Washington, D. C. As a result, state militia regiments are called out to bolster the American coastal defenses all along the Atlantic Seaboard, including at Charleston.
December 24, 1814
The War of 1812 officially concludes with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Europe, requiring only confirmation by the respective governments in London and Washington. Before this news can cross the Atlantic, Andrew Jackson defeats the final British thrust against New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
February 29, 1816
The senior staff and three companies of the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment arrive to be permanently stationed in Fort Moultrie.
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.”
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, to serve as 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 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 into the Cove behind, especially during and after any torrential rainfalls.
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 its very foundation at high tide, threatening to undermine the entire southwest point. 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.”
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.
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.
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. J. 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, but 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 three-day hurricane produces record high-tides and flooding in the Charleston area, as well as damaging some of Moultrie’s buildings.
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.
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 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.
August 27, 1845
Company A of the 3rd U.S. Artillery 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 12, 1846
War is declared against Mexico.
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.
October 3, 1846
Company K of the 3rd Artillery reaches Moultrie from Oglethorpe Barracks, Georgia.
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 training within the fort.
April 30, 1847
The 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.
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.
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.
September 11, 1852
According to U.S. Army Medical Department records, an initial case of a yellow-fever outbreak is recorded at Fort Moultrie (striking Sgt. William McNair of Company K, 2nd Artillery Regt.), 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 during the entire year.
Nevertheless, the medical officer Dr. John B. Porter has also noted that out of 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.”
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 comfortably house “two companies, one field officer, one captain, and two subalterns.”
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 2nd 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. Roiling surf carves a clear breach over Sullivan’s Island, sweeping away six houses and injuring a score of inhabitants. By Thursday night, terrified civilians begin taking refuge within Moultrie, several hundred being huddled inside by Friday morning, September 8th. The hurricane finally abates and moves away, leaving Sullivan’s Island flooded under two feet of water. Moultrie 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.
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.
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, was re-illuminated by 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 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 few surviving Seminoles. 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 of 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 abruptly worsens and 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 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 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 at that fort during the previous summer. After a two-week trial, he will be acquitted, although an unfavorable report is appended to his 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 family will spend a pleasant summer “at Sullivan’s Island, in the house next (west) of the Fort.”
September 28, 1859
Ten new Columbiads 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 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 interior surface-grading, and fixes the wooden railings along its main-battery staircase.
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.
Federal Fortification and Evacuation (September-December 1860)
July 9, 1860
Capt. Frederick C. Humphreys succeeds Captain Gorgas as the military storekeeper at the U.S. Arsenal in Charleston.
Early September, 1860
Amid rising tensions between various Southern states and the Federal government in Washington, the Chief U.S. Engineer—Colonel Totten—orders Brevet Captain 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 with European powers bent upon intervening in Mexico.
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 Moultrie’s southeastern side, by digging 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 defenders’ 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 of 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 “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 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, telegraphs 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 that he will be sending an officer from Moultrie next day to withdraw all its “fixed” or prepared small-arms ammunition into his garrison, “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 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, Captain M. 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 on their books.
November 18, 1860
Moultrie is reported to Washington as being “reasonably secure against a coup-de-main” or sudden surprise-assault, all its guns being emplaced and loaded with canister-shot.
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 out of New York, whose passengers are greeted by the shouted news 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 1861)
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 signaled 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 agreed salute, 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.
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 of 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, 1st Lt. Adam J. Slemmer — acting commander of the U.S. installations at Pensacola, Florida — and 2nd 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 Washington, Woods and his 200 troops are landed at 8:00 a.m. from Star of the West, and the Lieutenant submits a formal written report on his failed 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, 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.
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. R. K. Meade, Jr., returns into Charleston “from his visit of leave to Virginia,” lodging in the Mills House Hotel overnight 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 while 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.”
On the Sunday afternoon of January 27, 1861, the English-born correspondent William Waud will 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
Louisiana secedes from the Union, 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 Thomas Gunn, who files his own separate account of this “pleasant episode” by secret mail to the New York Post newspaper.
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
The remaining wives and children of the U.S. Army garrison reluctantly depart Fort Johnson for Charleston, where they go aboard the steamer Marion to sail for Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York. As their steamer exits past Sumter, Major Anderson orders a one-gun salute fired in their honor. Years later, Captain Doubleday will recall that as the 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 ex-U.S. Army Major R. S. Ripley, is confirmed as Lieutenant-Colonel of the newly-constituted South Carolina Artillery Battalion, with Capts. William R. Calhoun, E. B. Hallonquist, Stephen D. Lee, and J. Randolph Hamilton as his company commanders. Their men 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 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 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.
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.
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 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 being constructed along its waterfront.
March 4, 1861
This 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, before these senior commanders return into Charleston by 6:00 p.m.
This same day, Abraham Lincoln has been inaugurated in Washington, D.C., as the sixteenth President of the United States.
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 loaded with only a blank cartridge for a drill, 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 17, 1861
Charleston’s Washington Light Infantry militia company occupies “Thompson’s Point” at the far northeastern end of Sullivan’s Island, erecting a battery to defend the entrance into Breach Inlet from any Federal vessels, while living in a field encampment which they will dub “Camp Washington”.
March 20, 1861
Some 200 blank charges are fired during extensive gun-drills at Fort Moultrie.
March 21, 1861
Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Gustavus V. Fox reaches Charleston, and is permitted to visit Anderson in Fort Sumter, 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 in Charleston.
March 25, 1861
Federal Col. Ward C. Lamon (a former law-partner of Lincoln) reaches Charleston with instructions for Anderson, and is accompanied across to Fort Sumter by Col. U. S. Duryea of Governor Pickens’ staff.
March 31, 1861
This Easter Sunday, General Beauregard personally leads a cross-harbor tour by a throng of politicians and reporters aboard the harbor-steamers Carolina and General Clinch, complete with musical accompaniment provided by the Palmetto Brass Band. Dignitaries include ex-Governor Gist, Surgeon-General R.W. Gibbes, General Schnierle and the staff of the South Carolina state militia, the lawyer-Gen. William E. Martin, Colonels Lucas, Chisholm, and Carroll of Governor Pickens’ staff, etc.
They are met at the Moultrieville landing by Colonel Pettigrew and officers of the Carolina Rifles, who escort these guests as they review 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.
Beauregard’s tour thereupon proceeds to Morris Island, and finally steams close past Fort Sumter on their way back toward the city, gaily waving at its Union garrison while the onboard band plays “Dixie.”
April 3, 1861
A small vessel attempting to enter Charleston Harbor is fired upon by a Confederate shore-battery, proving to be the schooner R. H. Shannon, in transit toward Savannah with a cargo of ice.
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, and is now aimed at Fort Sumter. The Federal defenders 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 for a sighting of Federal vessels outside the harbor which will require “the assembling of all the reserves ten minutes afterward.” Hundreds of South Carolinian militiamen duly tumble out of taverns and beds into the dark and rainy streets, where considerable uncertainty ensues, until dawn at last reveals that it has been a false alarm.
April 9, 1861
The Union garrison inside Fort Sumter continues laboring feverishly to strengthen its defenses, and their bread is reduced to half-rations, as that supply 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 for the guns; a safe place is prepared for any wounded; latrines are dug inside the fort; and a first-tier embrasure on the left-flank wall is enlarged so as to receive 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 keep his men working until 10:00 p.m. on this 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. R. 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 anchored 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 are 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 men 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 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 at least 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 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.
And shortly before 11:00 a.m. on this same Friday morning, the telegraph-station at Sandy Hook signals that the steamship Baltic is just outside New York’s bar, 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 the 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 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 takes up station outside Charleston Harbor, capturing the Confederate General Parkhill as it approaches two days later from Liverpool, thereby initiating a continuous wartime blockade which will abruptly curtail almost all of the South Carolinian port’s commercial traffic over the next four years, except for sporadic voyages by a few daring blockade-runners.
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.
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 since held captive in tobacco warehouses on Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, arrives at Charleston’s railway depot, being marched that afternoon 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 initially 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, these 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.
October 30, 1861
The Union prisoners are shuttled back across the harbor from Castle Pinckney 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 5, 1861
A new Confederate “Military Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Eastern Florida” is created, with Gen. Robert E. Lee arriving in Charleston next day to assume command.
November 7, 1861
A large seaborne Federal expedition of seventeen vessels 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 as an advance base.
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 these extensive damages will still remain visibly unchanged by the time that the war ends three-and-a-half years later.
July 17, 1862
A gun explodes during a routine drill at Fort Moultrie, killing Lt.-Col. Thomas W. Wagner in the blast.
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 are initially misaddressed.
September 11, 1862
Beauregard finally departs Richmond, Virginia, reaching Charleston two days later and checking into the Mills House Hotel, officially assuming command on Monday the 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 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.
May 26, 1864
Maj.-Gen. John G. Foster succeeds Gillmore in command of the Union siege-forces on Morris Island. 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, but Foster prepares to wear down Sumter’s strength against 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 the structure as impregnable as ever.
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.
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.
February 17, 1865
As evening falls, Moultrie’s last Confederate defenders — Company G of the 1st South Carolina Infantry — evacuate the battered fort’s remnants, and withdraw from Sullivan’s Island altogether under cover of night.
February 18, 1865
This morning, Company B of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment occupies abandoned Fort Moultrie.
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 Troops.
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.