The biographical sketches listed here below, are focused upon each individual’s tenure at Fort Moultrie, rather than over the breadth of their entire careers. More detail is therefore included about their stints on Sullivan’s Island, however brief these might have been in most cases, and which should not be interpreted as implying any special importance to these particular interludes.
Anderson, Robert (1805-1871)
Distinguished U.S. Artillery officer, who was placed in command of beleaguered Fort Moultrie late during his career, as secessionist sentiment was peaking throughout South Carolina.
Birth & Early Life (1805-1826)
Born on June 14, 1805, on a rural estate about ten miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky, that had been named the “Soldier’s Retreat” by his father Col. Richard Clough Anderson, an American Revolutionary War hero who had fought beside George Washington at the Battles of Trenton and Yorktown. Robert was to be the eighth of what would eventually total sixteen children, which Colonel Anderson would sire by two successive wives. This extensive family would be sustained by a plantation operated by slaves, as well as through its political connections. Robert’s own step-uncle was George Rogers Clark, his mother’s cousin was Chief Justice John Marshall, and Andrew Jackson and James Monroe were known to be house-guests at the Soldier’s Retreat.
Thanks to his oldest brother Richard’s influence, an appointment was secured from Pres. James Monroe for the bright young Robert to enter the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1821, less than three weeks after his sixteenth birthday. Slender and bookish, he proved an excellent student at West Point, graduating four years later in fifth place out of 37 cadets in his class.
Despite receiving a brevet commission as Second Lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment, Anderson had deferred this placement to instead accompany his eldest brother Richard Clough Anderson, Jr. — the recently-widowed U.S. Minister to Colombia — as his “private secretary”, when the latter set sail from Washington, D.C., to resume his interrupted diplomatic posting at Bogotá. Arriving in that exotic South American country by October 1825, this intriguing episode in young Robert’s life was cut short when his brother received instructions from Pres. John Quincy Adams to assist another American representative at Portobelo, Panama. Travelling overland from the Colombian capital toward the steamy seaport of Cartagena so as to take passage by ship, Richard Anderson fell ill and died in the small town of Turbaco on July 24, 1826, leaving his bereaved sibling to return home alone.
Artillery Study, Black Hawk War, & West Point Instructor (1826-1837)
Resuming his deferred military career late that same year of 1826, Anderson was apparently reassigned as a Second Lieutenant to the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment, and sent to the “Artillery School of Practice” at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He was rotated out of that garrison in 1828 for ordnance duty at the U.S. Arsenal in St. Louis, Missouri, and was still occupied in that capacity four years later when the Black Hawk War suddenly threatened farther north in Illinois, erupting with a resounding defeat of an untrained frontier militia-force. During the resultant panic, Anderson was appointed on May 9, 1832, as Assistant Inspector-General with the temporary rank of militia Colonel on the staff of Illinois’ Gen. Henry Atkinson, and was consequently present at the final massacre of the pathetic remnants of Black Hawk’s band at the “battle” of Bad Axe on August 2, 1832, being so distressed by their suffering as to personally rescue a wounded native child from atop the body of its dead mother. Three days later, he wrote in disgust to one of his brothers that he had observed scenes of “misery exceeding any I ever expected to see in our happy land. Dead bodies, males & females, strewed along the road, left unburied, exposed — poor, emaciated beings.”
Later that same month of August 1832, U.S. Col. Zachary Taylor ordered Anderson and First Lt. Jefferson Davis to conduct the captive chieftain Black Hawk and about 60 of his followers to Jefferson Barracks, south of St. Louis, during which trip Anderson became a lifelong friend of the future Confederate President. And as a result of his participation in this campaign, Anderson was promoted to First Lieutenant in the regular U.S. Army as of June 30, 1833, and assigned to garrison duty at Fort Constitution in New Hampshire through 1834 and much of 1835.
Ordered to then report to the U.S. Military Academy as its new Assistant Instructor of Artillery, he arrived at West Point on September 10, 1835 and was promptly elevated to the senior position on December 1, 1835, with the unexpected resignation of his superior. Anderson would occupy this teaching position over the next two years, some of his student-cadets including such future luminaries as William T. Sherman, Braxton Bragg, Irwin McDowell, George Meade, Joseph Hooker, Jubal Early — and P.G.T. Beauregard, whom Anderson personally selected to serve as his tutorial assistant.
Seminole War & Artillery Theorist (1837-1845)
Seeking active duty once more, Anderson departed West Point on November 6, 1837, to serve in Florida in the renewed conflict against the Seminole Indians. He took part in the “action of Locha-Hatchee” on January 24, 1838, but was also felled by malaria and other tropical ills, which would weaken his constitution and leave him subject to sporadic fevers throughout the remainder of his life. He had nonetheless recuperated sufficiently to be in command when 45 Seminoles were captured near Ft. Lauderdale on April 2, 1838, winning himself promotion to brevet Captain for his “gallantry and successful conduct” on that occasion. After fighting in another skirmish in the Everglades on April 24, 1838, Anderson was made aide-de-camp that same May 9th to his friend Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott, and served in the subsequent, sad forced-march of the Cherokee Nation westward to the “Indian Territory” of Oklahoma, the so-called Trail of Tears.
Sickened in both body and spirit by these experiences, Anderson was appointed by a sympathetic Scott as his Assistant Adjutant-General for the Eastern Department on July 7, 1838, and accompanied the General to his headquarters in New York City. In addition to his staff duties, Anderson also began translating a French field-artillery manual in 1839, his initial draft being completed next year, which proved to be so lucid when compared to existing American treatises, that Scott in July 1841 ordered his work continued and expanded. Anderson was assigned to a board of officers, with instructions to produce a definitive U.S. field-artillery manual. He also rose to Captain in the 3rd Artillery Regiment as of October 23, 1841, and was relieved of his duties as Assistant Adjutant-General six weeks later, so as to concentrate upon this project.
While engaged in his work, Anderson met Eliza “Eba” Bayard Clinch, the eldest daughter of a prominent Georgia plantation-owner (retired Gen. Duncan Lamont Clinch), who was living stylishly as a Southern belle in a New York City hotel because of her frail health. The 36-year-old Anderson and 20-year-old Eba were married in a small private ceremony on March 26, 1842, the bride being given away by General Scott, as a close personal friend of both the groom and absent General Clinch. The couple would have four children together, three daughters — Eliza, Sophie, and Maria — and a son christened as Robert, Jr.
Over the next couple of years, Anderson’s board expanded and enhanced their material by drawing upon British sources, as well as many practical contributions. The final results were submitted and authorized for publication by the Sec. of War William Wilkins on March 6, 1845, the first copies of a book 166 pages long and with 69 plates of illustrations being printed by Joseph Robinson in Baltimore, becoming the standard U.S. Army manual for this branch of the service and repeatedly reissued over ensuing decades under its title of Instructions for Field Artillery, Horse and Foot.
Fort Moultrie, Mexican War & Recuperation (1845-1860)
His manual completed, Anderson requested a return to active line-duty and in 1845 was put in command of Company G of the 3rd Artillery, then part of the garrison at Fort Moultrie. William T. Sherman was one of his three subordinates, his junior First Lt. After a year of rising tensions over the imminent annexation of Texas, Anderson’s company was ordered to depart Moultrie for Fort Marion in Florida on May 21, 1846, and eventually joined General Scott’s expedition to open up a second front in the Mexican War, by landing outside of Veracruz in early March, 1847.
Scott had naturally offered Anderson a position on his staff, but the latter begged off so as to see combat. His battery participated in the bombardment of this Mexican port-city, and was also present at the Battle of Cerro Gordo and a skirmish at Amozoque, as the small American army pressed inland. Anderson’s old feverishness and chills recurred, but he had recovered sufficiently to lead a contingent in the crucial assault against the Molino del Rey strongpoint outside of the Mexican capital on September 8, 1847. Fighting his way inside of this vast building, Anderson almost died of several wounds before being relieved two hours later, and would carry a musket-ball in his right shoulder for the rest of his days.
Promoted to brevet Major for his “gallant and meritorious conduct” in this assault, he returned home to convalesce for a year, then was assigned in 1848 to light garrison-duty at Fort Preble, Maine. In July 1849, Anderson was once again delegated to help compile a manual, participating with four other officers in producing an extensive, well-illustrated Instruction for Heavy Artillery by August 1850, which was published in May 1851 and remained the standard text on this subject for American artillerists over the next decade-and-a-half.
By now in his late 40s, Anderson was retained on light administrative duties in the peacetime Army, leaving Fort Preble to assume the office of Governor on June 11, 1853, of the Harrodsburg Branch Military Asylum in his native Kentucky — an institution which he himself had founded — and remaining in that post until November 1, 1854. After a brief stint as a member of the Board for the Armament of Fortifications, he was employed from July 20, 1855, to November 15, 1859 (presumably with the backing of his friends General Scott and the Secretary of War, Jeff Davis) as inspector of the ironworks being manufactured at Trenton, New Jersey, for public projects under U.S. government contracts — only a two-hour trip by train from his wife and family, who were living in a luxurious suite in New York’s Brevoort Hotel.
During this interlude, his promotion to full Major in the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment also came through. Anderson was subsequently seated on another board arranging the new program of instruction for the Artillery School for Practice at Fortress Monroe, and to yet another board on July 18, 1860 (along with his friend, newly-reelected Senator Jeff Davis of Mississippi), to “examine into the organization, system of discipline, and course of instruction at the U. S. Military Academy.” It was while engaged in these peaceful pursuits, that the 55-year-old Anderson was suddenly ordered by telegram on November 12, 1860 to travel from New York City to Washington for an interview with the Secretary of War John B. Floyd, and three days afterward instructed to depart New York once more to assume command over beleaguered Fort Moultrie outside of Charleston.
Defense of Fort Moultrie & Sumter (1860-1861)
His old commander, Lieutenant-General Scott, had apparently selected Anderson for this delicate task because of his Southern connections, level-headedness, and apolitical inclinations. Anderson arrived at Moultrie on November 21, 1860, and continued the on-going strengthening of its defenses against a feared South Carolinian takeover. He and his officers nonetheless were convinced that its tiny garrison of less than 70 U.S. gunners lay hopelessly exposed within their low-lying fort, as well as vulnerable to any sudden mass-assault from among the encircling civilian dwellings.
Anderson therefore surprised the authorities in both Charleston and Washington, by unexpectedly evacuating his entire force from Moultrie on the evening of December 26, 1860, and transferring his command across the harbor-mouth into much more defensible Fort Sumter. Yet after three-and-a-half months of encirclement in that stronghold, with his supplies almost exhausted, the threat of possible reinforcement by the U.S. government prompted Confederate shoreline batteries to at last open fire at 4:20 a.m. on April 12, 1861. After bravely resisting for 34 hours, Anderson agreed to surrender to his former student Beauregard, and be evacuated for New York City as the Civil War erupted.
Final Years (1861-1871)
Anderson emerged a shattered man from his tense, five-month ordeal at both Moultrie and Sumter, who would never see active duty again. He was placed in nominal command of the Department of Kentucky on May 28, 1861, and of the Department of the Cumberland from that same August 15th, but played no further role during the next four years. He was instead simply classified as “waiting orders” from October 8, 1861 until August 19, 1863, when he was briefly put in command of the backwater garrison at Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Only ten weeks afterward, his name was officially retired from the active roster on October 27, 1863, “for disability resulting from long and faithful service, and wounds and disease contracted in the line of duty.”
Retained on the books as a staff-officer of the Eastern Department, Anderson was given a brevet promotion to Major-General on February 3, 1865, and transported to Charleston Harbor so as to be present when his old Sumter flag was re-hoisted over its blasted remnants on April 14, 1865. He died six-and-a-half years later in Nice, France, on October 26, 1871.
Bragg, Braxton T. (1817-1876)
Prickly U.S. Artillery subaltern who was stationed at Fort Moultrie for two years early during his career, and went on to become a famed Confederate army commander.
Birth & Education (1817-1837)
Born on March 22, 1817, in Warrenton — a small town of less than 1,000 people, set amid the tobacco fields of North Carolina’s Warren County — he was the fifth of six sons, and eighth of twelve children of an industrious local carpenter and contractor named Thomas Bragg, and his wife Margaret (née Crossland). According to legend, their infant’s unusual first name was chosen to honor Carter Braxton, a Virginia planter who had been one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Seven years prior to his birth, Braxton’s quick-tempered mother had taken offense against a comment made to her on the street by a free black youth, so had shot and killed him. Jailed on a charge of manslaughter, her husband had hired a prominent local attorney, who won an acquittal from an all-white judge and jury on grounds of self-defense. Thomas Bragg had paid off this legal debt by building the lawyer a fine new house, yet his wife’s reputation never recovered from her brief incarceration. In class-conscious Warrenton, the Braggs were regarded as of an inferior status, and her young son Braxton would apparently grow up ashamed of his mother. His biographers later noted how among the hundreds of letters which he wrote throughout his lifetime, Braxton often commented fondly about his father, yet never once mentioned her name after she died on January 8, 1835.
At the age of seven, Braxton was enrolled in the Warrenton Male Academy, only two blocks from his family home. He proved a bright student, a teacher even noting four years later that he was of a “tractable and docile disposition.” Bragg’s father therefore decided to seek him admission to West Point, so as to embark young Braxton upon a military career. This was attained after the eldest son, John Bragg, passed the bar and was elected to the state legislature in 1830, where he arranged a couple of years later with U.S. Senator Willie P. Magnum and Warrenton’s own U.S. Congressman, Micajah T. Hawkins, for 16-year-old Braxton to be nominated to the United States Military Academy in March 1833.
Arriving there by mid-June 1833, his physical exam recorded the teenage plebe as being five feet, ten inches tall and weighing 130 pounds. He easily excelled in his studies at West Point, and unexpectedly jumped from fourth-year private to the rank of cadet Captain when a number of his classmates turned down this same promotion during a protest. His contemporary Joseph Hooker (later a prominent Union General) would remember Bragg as “bright and energetic,” admiring his “manliness, independence, and unbending integrity,” although others found Bragg opinionated and tactless.
Service in Florida (1837-1843)
He graduated in the summer of 1837, fifth in a class of 50 which included such notable future Civil War commanders as Hooker, John C. Pemberton, Jubal A. Early, and John Sedgwick. Commissioned on July 1, 1837 as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment, Bragg cut short his home-leave in Warrenton to join his regiment next month at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Initially serving as assistant commissary officer and in training recruits, he shipped out in October 1837 for Florida with the rest of the 3rd Artillery under its controversial second-in-command — Maj. William Gates, recently court-martialed for cowardice — to participate in the Second Seminole War. Bragg served as regimental adjutant from that same November 1837 at its field-base of Fort Marion, near St. Augustine, without seeing any combat. However, he soon began to suffer from a feverish malady which swept through its garrison, so received medical leave in March 1838 to return home to North Carolina to convalesce.
When his regiment was subsequently ordered to Tennessee to help supervise the forced relocation westward of thousands of Cherokees, Bragg immediately wrote to the U.S. Army’s Adjutant-General, arguing that his physician felt “a trip to the mountains of the Cherokee might prove beneficial” to his recuperation. Bragg was therefore allowed to rejoin his regiment by June 1838, to take part in the pitiless deportation known as the “Trail of Tears.” While thus engaged, his promotion to First Lieutenant came through on July 7, 1838, but Bragg was once more weakened by the fever contracted in Florida. Granted a second three-month leave in December 1839, he reported back from Warrenton to Washington in March 1840, being temporarily stationed for a month at Philadelphia, before being reassigned to light recruiting-duty at Fort Columbus, New York.
Shortly after arriving there, Bragg formally accused its commandant — Col. Josiah H. Vose — of lying, and demanded his prosecution. Both the Adjutant-General and senior commander of the Eastern Department, Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott, were astonished by this impertinent demand, and refused to act on Bragg’s charge. It has since been speculated that the mercury-laced calomel routinely prescribed during the mid-19th Century for ailments such as Bragg’s, may have begun gradually poisoning his system, exacerbating his antagonism and distrust of others.
When he had gathered sufficient recruits for the 3rd Artillery by late September 1840, Bragg was ordered to sail with them for Florida, over his objections. He departed New York with his men aboard the transport Zenobia on November 23, 1840, accompanied by Second Lt. George H. Thomas, another future Union General with whom he would become lifelong friends. Placed in command next month of a company garrisoning Fort Marion near St. Augustine, Bragg remained at that outpost until June 1841, followed by a second stint from July 1842 to March 1843. Only 23 years old at the time of first being given this independent command, Bragg proved a stern disciplinarian, and such a stickler for regulations as to become a difficult subordinate for his superiors as well. Ulysses S. Grant, who knew Bragg during this period, would later recall him as a “remarkably intelligent and well-informed man,” but with an “irascible temper [who] was naturally disputatious … [As] a subordinate he was always on the look-out to catch his commanding officer infringing on his prerogative; as a post-commander he was equally vigilant to detect the slightest neglect.” Yet although unloved by his men, Bragg wrote tirelessly on their behalf to Washington, seeking to improve their provisions and living conditions, his stream of complaints to senior U.S. Army officials — including the Adjutant-General and Paymaster — growing increasingly blunt.
Controversial Fort Moultrie Tenure (1843-1845)
When the Second Seminole War officially concluded in August 1842, Bragg’s Company E of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment was rotated out next spring to Fort Moultrie, arriving there on April 5, 1843. Overcrowded and still undergoing repairs from a hurricane which had roared through that previous autumn, it would be Bragg’s station for the next two years. During this period, he would cement friendships with his two immediate Company E subordinates, George H. Thomas and John F. Reynolds, as well as with Lt. William T. Sherman of Company G. However, Bragg also remained so prickly as to publicly insult the garrison commander, Lt.-Col. William Gates, when he asked the 26-year-old First Lieutenant to join him for a drink at the sutler’s quarters. Regarding Gates as a weak and inferior commander, Bragg had ungraciously retorted: “Colonel Gates, if you order me to drink a glass of wine with you, I shall have to do it.”
He furthermore challenged an editor of the Charleston Mercury newspaper to a pistol-duel, for having referred to North Carolina as “a strip of land between two states” during a July 4th speech. Reynolds and Sherman had succeeded in diffusing this confrontation, by persuading the editor to apologize. And more notoriously, Bragg also began penning a series of critical articles from Moultrie entitled “Notes on Our Army”, which appeared anonymously in the pages of the Southern Literary Messenger as of February 1844. Written under the pseudonym of “A Subaltern” and addressed to leading politicians of that day, they featured pointed attacks against the policies of the U.S. Army’s commander-in-chief, Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott, referring to him as a “vain, petty, conniving man.” Bragg also included lengthy criticisms of Army administrative practices, with his own recommended solutions.
His articles quickly came to the attention of U.S. Representative James G. Clinton, a New York Democrat and political opponent of Scott, who wished to embarrass the Whig General and dim his Presidential aspirations. Clinton therefore invited Bragg to testify before his House Committee on Public Expenditures, so that the young officer requested a 30-day leave from Moultrie and departed for Washington on March 1, 1844. Bragg had not informed Colonel Gates (a friend of Scott’s) of his design, but another officer stationed at Moultrie — Lt. Erasmus Keyes, a former aide to the General-in-Chief — wrote to warn Scott that Bragg was the anonymous “Subaltern,” and in the national capital to consort with his political foes. The General therefore had a peremptory query sent to Bragg on March 20, 1844, ordering him to return to his post if he was not in Washington on official business.
Bragg replied somewhat evasively, and Clinton overrode any qualms which he might have felt about proceeding with his testimony, by officially subpoenaing Bragg to appear before his Committee six days later. Angry, Scott had Bragg arrested immediately thereafter and sent to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, to be court-martialed on April 2, 1844, for disobedience to orders and disrespect toward his superior officers. Bragg conducted his own defense (with the help of his older brother John) and tried to turn the trial into a condemnation of Scott, using the balance of his allotted question-period to insult the commanding General on the witness stand. Yet when the verdict was pronounced, Bragg had only been found guilty of the lesser charge of disrespect, and so received an official reprimand from the Secretary of War, plus suspension from duty at half-pay for two months — relatively mild punishments. Still, even his biographer would later marvel at how these actions had:
… established Bragg’s distinction as the most cantankerous man in the Army. He had been court-martialed and convicted; he had been censored by the Secretary of War, the Adjutant-General, and the Commander of the Eastern division. No other junior officer could boast of so many high-ranking enemies. Both the Commander of the Third Artillery and the Commanding General of the United States Army hated Bragg. His future in his regiment and in the Army seemed most uncertain.
Others supported his views, however, so that an undeterred Bragg would continue to write his stream of “anonymous” articles in the pages of the Southern Literary Messenger for another year. The June 1844 edition even included a letter of rebuke objecting to his tone, from officers of an “unnamed fort” — which Bragg assumed to be some of his own Moultrie colleagues.
He returned to duty there on June 27, 1844, and was reassigned to his old living-quarters. This suite was “not only uncomfortable, but considered uninhabitable,” another officer would later recall, “owing to the heat and the ... insects which a want of circulation of air accumulated,” further attracted by a waste-room located nearby. When Bragg learned in late October, 1844 that Lieutenant Thomas would soon be rejoining from detached service, and that a private house outside Moultrie’s compound was to be leased for his residence, he requested this house for himself. Gates refused on the grounds that it had not yet been leased.
Once Thomas did return, though, this house was instead given to Lt. William H. Churchill — a recently married young officer — while Thomas was assigned to Churchill’s vacated suite in Moultrie. Bragg consequently filed a formal complaint with Gates on November 22, 1844, arguing that the Colonel had been wrong to deny him his rights according to rank. Gates replied that he found Bragg’s protest “objectionable in tone and language,” who responded in a more pleasing manner on November 26th — but at the same time asking that the matter be forwarded to headquarters. Gates retorted testily four days later, declining this latest request and repeating his complaints about Bragg’s “disrespectful” attitude. Bragg formally requested a hearing before a court of appeal on December 1, 1844, causing the Colonel to angrily accuse him of “making a serious matter out of a trifle.”
A four-member court of inquiry was nonetheless convened at Moultrie at 10:00 a.m. on January 16, 1845, chaired by Lt.-Col. Thomas Childs. Since Gates had gone into Charleston on business, they had to wait until he returned later that same afternoon, to begin their proceedings. Bragg thereupon submitted a clutch of documents as evidence, and paraded seven witnesses to the stand. When a verdict was rendered five days later, it upheld his prerogatives in choice of quarters, and his right to appeal Gates’ denial. An opinion subsequently appended by Brig. Gen. John E. Wool, head of the Eastern Division, further admonished the Colonel for his “unmilitary and undignified correspondence” in this matter, doubtless intensifying his dislike of Bragg.
Yet this distaste by his base commandant, may well have helped hasten Bragg’s departure for the front. As relations with Mexico began to fray in that same spring of 1845, over America’s impending annexation of Texas, Bragg requested three months’ leave on June 18, 1845 to arrange his personal affairs. Instead, he was ordered to begin preparing Company E and departed Moultrie eight days afterward aboard the brig Hayne, the first unit to sail for New Orleans. There he was to assume command over four light pieces and teams of horses, reorganize his company into a field-artillery formation, and proceed “as expeditiously as possible” to join the brigade which Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor was gathering in anticipation of the forthcoming conflict.
Mexican War Service & Resignation (1845-1856)
Bragg’s company reached New Orleans by July 19, 1845, and although the promised field-pieces and horses were not yet available, went aboard the transport Alabama four days later as infantrymen, so as to accompany Taylor’s army as it cleared for Corpus Christi. A protracted layover ensued on St. Joseph’s Island, several months during which Bragg, Reynolds, and Thomas accoutered and trained their 72 gunners as a “light-artillery” unit [which meant that their artillerymen served dismounted, hitching rides on the guns or wagons whenever these were moved; only Capt. Samuel Ringgold’s battery was outfitted as “flying artillery,” with special saddles and seats so as to carry his gunners into action].
After eight months of unsuccessful diplomatic wrangling, during which the American army remained miserably encamped at Corpus Christi, Taylor finally advanced toward Matamoros on March 8, 1846. Six days later, while suffering from thirst as they pushed across the arid Texan desert, Bragg distinguished himself by finding a spring of water, which “practically saved the army.” Arriving at the riverbank opposite Matamoros by March 28, 1846, Taylor’s force erected a star-shaped earthwork dubbed Fort Texas, and settled down for another wait. There were cross-river defections into the Mexican base over the next few months, including one of Bragg’s two black slaves.
Then after a patrol under Capts. Seth B. Thornton and William J. Hardee had been ambushed and captured by a Mexican column, Taylor led his main army northeastward on May 1, 1846, to secure his supply-lines from Port Isabel. Maj. Jacob Brown remained to hold Fort Texas with an infantry regiment and two field-batteries, including Bragg’s. This garrison weathered eight days of Mexican bombardments and assaults, before Taylor returned to relieve them. Bragg was promoted to Brevet Captain effective as of May 9, 1846 for his “gallant and distinguished conduct” in this defense, followed by promotion to full Captain in the regular U.S. Army as well on June 18, 1846. A few weeks afterward, he furthermore served as defense counsel at the court-martial of Captain Thornton, winning his acquittal.
Bragg led his battery from Matamoros deeper into Mexico on August 5, 1846, overtaking Taylor’s main army nine days later at Camargo. Assigned to the division of Brig. Gen. David E. Twiggs, the American invaders advanced on August 19, 1846, across the desert to assault the city of Monterrey by September 20th. Its stubborn garrison was subdued, but not defeated by three days of bloody thrusts and street-fighting, in which Bragg’s guns were not able to really distinguish themselves. He was nonetheless brevetted as a Major in the aftermath of the Mexicans’ negotiated withdrawal, backdated to September 23, 1846. A lull in the fighting in northern Mexico thereupon ensued as Taylor’s forces occupied towns and dug in for the winter, during which Gen. Winfield Scott also visited in early January 1847 to select units for a second front which he was to inaugurate by landing at Veracruz. Not surprisingly, he did not choose Bragg’s 150-man battery to join this expedition.
Instead, Bragg was still encamped with General Taylor south of Saltillo when word was suddenly received at dawn of February 21, 1847, that the Mexican commander-in-chief Santa Anna — alerted to American weaknesses by captured correspondence — was fast approaching with his main army. Taylor ordered his outnumbered forces to fall back and brace to receive them at La Angostura or “The Narrows” near Buena Vista, checking the initial Mexican onslaught on the afternoon of February 22, 1847. Next day, repeated assaults were hurled back all day long, the U.S. field-artillery proving invaluable throughout this desperate resistance. Bragg’s battery performed admirably, at one point saving the 1st Mississippi Rifles Volunteer Regiment under its Col. Jefferson Davis from annihilation, so that Bragg was brevetted immediately after the battle to Lieutenant.-Colonel. Newspaper accounts furthermore reported that Taylor had allegedly called out during at the height of this action for “A little more grape, Captain Bragg,” which became a popular catch-phrase throughout America.
Yet once Scott landed at Veracruz early next month to open up his second front, Santa Anna was obliged to retire south to defend Mexico’s national capital, leaving Taylor in unchallenged possession of northern Mexico. Bragg spent the remainder of the war on garrison-duty in and around Monterrey, a period of enforced idleness in its torrid climate during which his strict discipline came to be resented by his gunners. While asleep in his tent on the night of August 26, 1847, Bragg was almost murdered when someone lit a twelve-pound shell loaded with canister within a few feet of his bunk. Miraculously spared, he endured a second, almost identical assassination attempt only two months later.
Married Elizabeth “Elise” Brooks Ellis on June 7, 1849, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Purchased the “Leesburg” sugar-plantation near Thibodeaux in Lafourche Parish on February 5, 1856, for $145,000.
Bragg was appointed by the Confederate government on March 6, 1861, to assume command over the Florida militia forces which had occupied the Federal installations around Pensacola Harbor, arriving five days later to relieve the 62-year-old local landowner and Maj.-Gen. William Henry Chase.
At the conclusion of the Alabama project, Bragg moved to Galveston, Texas, accepting the job of inspector of a large railroad. While walking alongside a roadbed on September 27, 1876, he suddenly fell and was carried to a nearby drugstore, where he died. An inquest attributed the cause of death to “fatal syncope, possibly induced by organic heart disease.” His body was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.
Byrne, Bernard Miles (1807-1860)
Irish-born U.S. Army surgeon, who died while serving as Fort Moultrie’s medical officer.
Birth & Early Studies (1807-1835)
Notwithstanding some contradictions in family histories, it appears as if he was born in 1807 at the ancestral Byrne home of Ballinderry House [commonly referred to as “Ballinderry Grove Hall” in American genealogical records], in County Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland. Bernard was seemingly the fifth of what would eventually be eight children born to Brian or “Bernard” Byrne, Sr., and his wife Mary Russell. As a child, young Bernard apparently received some early education at Trinity College in Dublin, but at the age of eleven, his father suffered some financial reverses, so sold off his properties in order to emigrate with his family to America. Legend has it that the Byrnes sailed from Liverpool aboard the ship Ontario, and disembarked at Alexandria, Virginia, on August 16, 1818.
They moved on to Maryland, to temporarily join one of Brian Byrne’s old friends from Dublin, Francis O’Hart. When Florida was annexed into the United States three years later, the senior Byrne purchased 9,000 acres of land along the St. John’s River in 1821, to begin clearing it as a tobacco-plantation which he named Wicklow. A Seminole raiding-party burnt down its main house a couple of years afterward, but the Byrnes rebuilt and reoccupied it — although such perils may have compelled at least some of the family members to be relocated to the relative safety of Pikesville, Maryland.
Teenaged Bernard must have figured among this latter group, and began studying toward a career in medicine, like his older brothers Lawrence and Charles. According to Eugene Fontleroy Cordell’s The Medical Annals of Maryland (1899, Page 340), young Bernard graduated from the Chirurgical Faculty of the University of Maryland in 1828 with a medical degree, in addition to having won that institution’s esteemed Latin Medal prize. He was retained almost immediately as a physician by the supportive Hibernian Society in Baltimore, but Bernard’s father died in February 1829 (allegedly from injuries suffered after being thrown by a horse). More than four years later, his 26-year-old son and namesake distinguished himself once again by publishing An Essay to Prove the Contagious Character of Malignant Cholera; With Instructions for its Prevention and Cure in October 1833, and became a regular contributor to the 1834 Baltimore Medical and Surgical Journal and Review. He also apparently served as “prosecutor” to the Professor of Anatomy at Washington College, New York.
Military Career (1836-1857)
Byrne applied, was interviewed, and selected as a top candidate to become an Assistant Surgeon in the U. S. Army on May 20, 1836, his appointment being announced on Page 46 of the Army and Navy Chronicle edition of July 14, 1836 (Vol. III, No. 2, Whole No. 80). Initially stationed at Fortress Monroe, Virginia — where Maj. John L. Gardner happened to be in command of Company A of the 4th U.S. Artillery Regiment at that time — Byrne was subsequently ordered to report to Washington when this unit sailed for Florida to participate in the Second Seminole War. He arrived in the national capital on October 18, 1837, to be directed six days afterward to “temporary duty at Fort Hamilton,” New York (Army & Navy Chronicle, Vols. 4-5, pp. 266 and 272).
However, Byrne must have deployed to Florida very shortly thereafter, and would spend much of the next several years on extended tours in that state. It is known that he was stationed at Fort Gilleland in 1838, where in addition to his regular duties, “he attended the sick among the settlers who had been collected within the fort.” Byrne later claimed that he did so under a special understanding with the post commandant, that he would receive a $100 a month honorarium from the U.S. government, over and above his Army salary. A petition was duly presented on his behalf before the House of Representatives on January 7, 1839, “for remuneration for professional services to troops in the service of the United States” (Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 3rd Session of the 25th Congress, Washington: 1839, p. 205), although eventually denied nineteen years later.
That same summer of 1839, the Army and Navy Chronicle (Vols. 8-9, p. 61), reprinted an article from the St. Augustine News which reported that:
Dr. Bernard M. Byrne sailed on the 10th instant [of July 1839] in schooner Medium, on leave of absence. Dr. B. has been in Florida for the last three years, actively and permanently engaged in field duty.
The subsequent August 29, 1839 issue of this same publication (Vol. IX, No. 9, Whole No. 243, Page 142) included the official notification of: “Leave for three months to Ass’t. Surgeon B. M. Byrne.” He apparently visited Washington on September 16, 1839 (Ibid., No. 12, Whole No. 246, Page 185), as well as again on November 20, 1839 (Ibid., Page 831).
He must have been back in Florida by next year, though, before the January 22, 1842 issue of the Army and Navy Chronicle (Pages 11 and 14) mentioned that Byrne had been in the national capital yet again on December 27, 1841, and temporarily assigned to Fort Hamilton. The Register of the Army of the United States for 1843 nonetheless listed Byrne on Page 6 as being back in Florida once more, and sixteen years later, a witness during Byrne’s court-martial would testify how during that summer of 1843, Byrne had been dispatched from St. Augustine to help contain a yellow-fever outbreak on Key West, which was effectively checked. The Register of the Army of the United States for 1844 listed him on its Page 8 as being stationed at Fort Marion, although the July 10, 1844 edition (Vol. 30, Num. 23) of The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal noted among its “Medical Miscellany” on Page 467: “Assistant Surgeon B. M. Byrne permitted to proceed to New York for examination, for promotion.”
As expectations of a war with Mexico escalated, Byrne was sent in late 1845 to join Gen. Zachary Taylor’s army marshalling at Corpus Christi, Texas, and mentioned as having been temporarily left behind “with a detachment of troops guarding stores at St. Joseph’s Island,” when this force pushed southward next spring. Byrne nevertheless rejoined in time to be present at the opening Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de las Palmas, as well as the subsequent actions at Monterrey, Saltillo, and Buenavista, being noted in dispatches for having carried the famed field-artillery commander “Ringgold from the field when he was fatally wounded.” After fighting jumped much farther south into Central Mexico with Gen. Winfield Scott’s disembarkation at Veracruz, Byrne remained as part of the occupation force in northern Mexico, being listed in a report dated February 1, 1847, as the assistant director of the U.S. Army hospital in occupied Monterrey.
Once hostilities ceased and the American armies returned home, the Register of the Army of the United States for 1850 showed Byrne as being stationed in Central Florida once again — this time at lonely Fort Gardner, located just north of Lake Kissimmee — although he must have been transferred shortly thereafter to Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri, where he performed bravely during the cholera epidemic of July 1850, plus those that struck at New Port Barracks in Kentucky in September 1851 and May 1852.
Sometime between these latter two events, Byrne’s brief compilation entitled Letters on the Climate, Soils, and Productions of Florida had been published by the newspaper offices at Jacksonville in 1851, while on a personal note he had married Louisa Matlack Abert — the daughter of Col. John James Abert, chief of the U.S. Topographical Engineers — on November 18, 1851 in Washington, D.C. They would have three children together: an eldest son christened Charles Abert, a daughter Ellen Abert, and finally Bernard Abert. Promoted to Major and Surgeon in the U.S. Army as of March 31, 1853, Byrne also decided next year to reissue his two-decades-old Essay to Prove the Contagious Character of Malignant Cholera in a revised edition, finalizing its written introduction on September 21, 1854 while stationed at Fort Vancouver in the “Washington Territory,” where he had been sent as Medical Director. This reedited treatise was published by Childs and Peterson in Philadelphia that following year, to favorable reviews.
Moultrie Posting, Court-Martial & Death (1858-1860)
It is uncertain exactly when Byrne was assigned to Moultrie, although it seems likely that he succeeded Asst. Surgeon Levi H. Holden in February 1858. The American Medical Times would later report on Page 215 of its September 22, 1860 edition, that Byrne had been “for three years Attending Physician of the Fort Moultrie Station on Sullivan’s Island” — suggesting that he must have arrived sometime early in 1858. Two artillery companies also disembarked at the fort from a lengthy campaign in Florida that same June 1858, to constitute Moultrie’s new garrison, and a number of these fresh arrivals began falling ill by late August 1858.
As the first deaths started occurring in early September 1858, and with more gunners falling sick every day, it became obvious that Moultrie was in the grip of a yellow-fever outbreak. A full-blown epidemic eventually infected a total of 49 soldiers and claimed the lives of 28. Byrne reported himself as ill only a week into this crisis, and remained in his leased civilian home with his family and servants for more than a month, while a hired doctor attended at Moultrie’s hospital. Angered by Byrne’s extended absence from his post throughout this critical period, Capt. Abner Doubleday — second-in-command at the fort — and two Lieutenants presented formal letters on October 7, 1858 to its commandant, Colonel Gardner, requesting that the surgeon be court-martialed for his “unprofessional conduct” during this outbreak.
Byrne’s trial was convened at Moultrie on March 26, 1859 by Brevet Brig. Gen. Sylvester Churchill, and after two weeks of testimony — during which Byrne was assisted in his defense by the prominent Charleston attorney, William E. Martin — he was acquitted, although with an admonition inserted into the verdict. Byrne remained on duty as the fort’s physician for another seventeen months, before falling ill and dying unexpectedly on September 6, 1860. He was succeeded in that post by Asst. Surgeon Samuel Wylie Crawford. Byrne’s widow Louisa received financial relief from the Federal government in 1862, and his son Bernard Abert Byrne went on to a distinguished military career in his own right, as well as several other members and descendants of the Byrne family.
Cook, George Smith (1819-1902)
Charleston photographer and portraitist who recorded many prominent figures, as well as scenes around Fort Moultrie and Charleston Harbor, both prior to and throughout the Civil War.
Early Itinerant Life (1819-1849)
Born on February 23, 1819 in the ancient town of Stratford, at the mouth of the Housatonic River on Long Island Sound a few miles from Bridgeport in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Cook was orphaned at an early age. Nothing is known about his parents, although he was christened with his father’s name as George S. Cook, Jr. Raised by his maternal grandmother in Newark, New Jersey, he departed there late in 1833 at the age of fourteen, to work his way down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Reaching New Orleans toward the end of 1837 or early 1838, his artistic talents led him to become an apprentice portraitist and miniaturist, painting images of wealthy local citizens while trying unsuccessfully to establish his own modest gallery — until he was introduced a few years later to a revolutionary new invention known as “daguerreotype” photography, reportedly learning its rudiments from William H. Harrington (who is known to have briefly operated such a shop in New Orleans early in 1842).
Cook possibly managed the gallery of H. G. Ely at 3 Exchange Place, until he failed to purchase the art gallery owned by portraitist George Cooke, then departed Louisiana altogether in the summer of 1845 to return home. He was back in New Jersey by October 4th of that same year, purchasing his own daguerreian equipment and perfecting the art of taking portraits in both Newark and New York City during 1845-1846, and even competing by submitting five frames to the American Institute exhibit (whose top prize was won both years by Mathew Brady). However, the 27-year-old Cook wished to develop his own photography business in a less crowded market, so married 30-year-old Elizabeth Smith Francisco of Newark in September 1846, and set out next month with his new bride and her young daughter Francesca or “Fannie” for St. Louis, Missouri.
Quickly amassing $300 from photographic portraits which they took of local gentry, the newlyweds continued in January 1847 down the Mississippi and Cumberland Rivers, pausing to work such towns as Natchez, Memphis, and Nashville. Cook seems to have established a string of subsidiary galleries throughout Alabama — at Huntsville, Athens, Florence, and Tuscumbia — from the summer of 1847 until January 1848, his method consisting of offering classes in daguerreotype techniques to local students, then leasing or selling the studio to the most apt pupil upon his departure. The Cooks were on the move again through Georgia from August 1848 until August 1849, establishing galleries in Columbus, Warm Springs, Macon, Milledgeville, and LaGrange. Their first child was born to them in May 1849 in this latter town, and so was baptized as George LaGrange Cook.
Establishment in Charleston (1849-1860)
Now with two young children and wishing to settle down permanently, the Cooks set out for Charleston on September 12, 1849, arriving in South Carolina’s main seaport by October 10th. Cook was convinced that he could flourish in this growing city of 43,000 inhabitants, and so opened a gallery at 235 King Street (“over James E. Spear’s Jewelry Store”, opposite Hasell Street) offering daguerreotypes in “a new style with all the Colours,” as well as apparently winning prizes at the South Carolina Institute Fair. By 1851, he had prospered sufficiently to temporarily leave his Charleston gallery in an assistant’s care, when Cook was retained by Brady to manage his own renowned gallery at 205 Broadway in New York City, while the latter travelled to England to personally attend the “Fair of All Nations” Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London. Cook’s tenure in New York was supposed to extend until the end of 1852, but — ever ambitious — he also purchased a rival gallery from C. C. Harrison “in the La Farge building” at 293 Broadway, so that Brady cut short his European tour and hastened home to prevent the flourishment of such competition.
Closing his New York outlet and returning to Charleston by the spring of 1852, Cook introduced various new types of reproductions at his busy gallery, as well as painting commissioned portraits, plus further supplementing his income by offering training-classes in photography, as well as importing and stockpiling supplies to sell to other practitioners throughout the region. By 1856, he was doing so well that he revived his expansion plans, reputedly buying the gallery of Marcus Aurelius Root at the “southeast corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets” in Philadelphia, which the latter had been intending to close so as to move his operation to New York City, before Root had been unexpectedly injured in a railroad accident. Next year, Cook also joined a Canadian partner named Samuel Montague Fassett in opening a gallery at 181 Lake Street in Chicago. The June 1857 edition of Harper’s Monthly (Num. 15, Pages 1-22) prominently featured a spread of engravings of “Charleston: The Palmetto City,” most of which illustrations had been etched from photographs taken by Cook. He seems to have spent a considerable amount of time in Philadelphia during this period, upgrading and moving the Root Gallery to 820 Chestnut Street by 1859.
Now grown quite wealthy, Cook purchased two plots of land back in Charleston on July 2, 1860, on fashionable South Battery Street, overlooking the White Point public gardens and with a panoramic vista across the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, as they flowed out of Charleston Harbor into the distant Atlantic Ocean. His properties lay on either side of a splendid Italianate-style villa with arcades and bracketed cornices, which had been erected seven years previously at 26 South Battery for Col. John Algernon Sydney Ashe, a rich planter, banker, and state politician. Cook would start construction of his own fine brick mansion with a stucco facade at 28 South Battery Street, while converting his half of an 18th-Century tenement at 24 South Battery into a rental property. (The other half of this tenement had already been torn down so that Nathaniel Russell Middleton, Charleston’s City Treasurer, might build his own splendid three-and-a-half story house at 22 South Battery in 1857-1858.)
On Page 8 of his 1994 Photographic History of South Carolina in the Civil War, Richard B. McCaslin declared that Cook’s portraits could:
... always be recognized by the distinctive vase of flowers in the background. Cook usually made three exposures per sitting, and boasted that he rarely had to reshoot a subject. If a customer did not agree that the image was the best he ever had, he was entitled to another sitting, which rarely happened according to Cook.
The official census for 1861 listed Cook’s gallery as having been moved into a brick building at 265 King Street, owned by the former Mayor of Charleston (and titular militia General), John Schnierle. Cook is furthermore mentioned in this same census as owning an unoccupied brick house at 12 South Bay Street.
Civil War Survival (1861-1865)
The English-born correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn recorded on Page 149 of Volume Fifteen of his personal diaries, how he had visited Cook’s King Street studio (an establishment which he had patronized before) on the drizzly Monday morning of February 11, 1861:
... where I saw the recently-taken portrait of Anderson and his officers. I should have got some items, but Cook had two lady sitters, and is not a communicative man.
Gunn therefore proceeded to Quinby’s studio to make his purchases.
When the escalating tensions between South Carolina and Washington finally erupted with the bombardment of Fort Sumter at dawn on April 12, 1861, Cook glumly noted in his business journal:
Shut up [i.e., his studio closed, not open for business].War, war, war.
Next day, he opened his gallery and made a few sales, before recording the surrender of Sumter’s Federal garrison in his journal that same Saturday afternoon. Cook would remain busily engaged over that ensuing month in taking portraits of more than 40 Confederate military men, as well as pictures of installations around the Charleston area and photographic copies of maps and drawings for General Beauregard.
Throughout the early years of this conflict, Cook was able to use his longstanding business and personal contacts in the North, as well as his affiliations with his Canadian partner Fassett and other associates in Britain’s overseas colonies, to continue bringing photographic supplies in through the Federal blockade. Vital chemicals such as iodides and bromides were smuggled into Charleston, sometimes under the guise of medicines. The New York City-based American Journal of Photography even commented in its September 1863 issue: “By favor of our British cousins, who run the blockade with powder and guns, our friend Cook of Charleston has still a precarious stock of photographic materials, and still makes a business in the shadows of the people.” Cook even personally invested in at least three blockade-runners himself, using them to import materials so successfully as to be able to supply other photographers in neighboring North Carolina and Georgia. He furthermore allegedly established a short-lived subsidiary studio in Columbus, Georgia, as well as remaining busily engaged in producing photographic copies of military maps and charts for General Beauregard.
After the Confederate retreat from Morris Island, Cook had himself rowed out (with James M. Osborn acting as his assistant) to badly-battered Fort Sumter on the night of September 7-8, 1863, so as to record the effects of the still on-going Union siege-bombardment. A flotilla of Federal monitors closed on the harbor entrance that same morning, to engage Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and other Confederate shore-batteries in support of the USS Weehawken, which had run aground near Cumming’s Point. Amid these exchanges of gunfire, Cook climbed to the top of Sumter’s northeastern parapet and used a shattered gun-carriage as a tripod, to photograph three of these monitors in action at a range of roughly two miles, before his presence was detected and drew fire from the Union guns on Morris Island. Cook reportedly later told a story of how a shell had passed close to him, then another knocked his plate-holder off the parapet into Sumter’s water-cistern, before he was at last ordered down. He furthermore paid a soldier five dollars to retrieve his plate-holder.
Post-War Career (1865-1902)
With his home and studio in Columbia destroyed, South Carolina prostrate, Confederate resistance at an end, and lawlessness and poverty on all sides, Cook decided to risk returning to his house at 28 South Battery Street in occupied Charleston that same spring of 1865. The accompanying video shows his vacant home, still shuttered by its caretaker in late April of that year, although with its columns obligingly adorned with black bunting in mourning for the assassinated President Lincoln — just like the mansion right next door at 26 South Battery Street, which had been commandeered as the headquarters for Maj.-Gen. John P. Hatch, commander of all the Union occupation forces within the city and its district. The soldiers seen standing on guard may be from the famed 54th Massachusetts, or 32nd Pennsylvania, both of which regiments were known to be performing provost-duties in Charleston around this time. (The musical accompaniment is the “Amy Waltz”, an 1854 composition by Charles de Janon, played on a 19th-Century parlor guitar by Lucas Gonze.)
Cook cautiously reappeared at his house with his son George in May 1865, to reopen it, as well as their old studio at 235 King Street. By now a 47-year-old widower, Cook returned to Newark and on September 24, 1866, married Lavinia Elizabeth Pratt, a 29-year-old niece of his first wife, in the First Reformed Dutch Church and returned with her and his step-daughter to Charleston. The couple’s first and only child together, a boy christened Huestis Pratt Cook, would be born there on July 13, 1868.
Cook had shifted his Charleston gallery to 281 King Street by the summer of 1870, a small ad in the June 15th edition of the Sumter Times of Sumterville mentioning that “George S. Cook, Photographic Artist,” could offer “All the latest styles of Good Work done at this Gallery, and Warranted to Excel.” In January 1873, he purchased David and Daniel Bendann’s gallery at 1134 Broadway in New York City, which failed so that he closed it by May 1874. Cook consequently decided to try his luck again in Richmond, Virginia, travelling there in April 1880 to buy a gallery at 913 East Main Street, which had formerly been owned by David H. Anderson. Cook’s family followed that same August 1880, leaving the operation of his Charleston gallery to his eldest son, 31-year-old George Lagrange Cook. However, business in Virginia also remained so slow at first, the senior Cook was writing back to his Charleston creditor William S. Manning by late February 1881 that “while the business of this [Richmond] gallery last year from May to May was nearly $10,000, it has not reached half of that for the past nine months proportionally.”
His son George Lagrange followed him to Richmond in 1890, and eventually took over the business, so that the elder Cook could spend much of his time in semi-retirement at nearby Bon Air, Virginia. There, he suffered a stroke on November 25, 1902, and died two days later in his home, the funeral service being held “at the Presbyterian Church near that place” before his body was conveyed for burial in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery.
Crawford, Samuel Wylie (1829-1892)
U.S. Army doctor who was transferred into Moultrie shortly before South Carolina’s secession, and later wrote a detailed account of the fort’s evacuation and the subsequent bombardment of Sumter.
Birth & Education (1829-1850)
Crawford had been born on November 8, 1829, at his family’s 300-acre farm named Alandale along the banks of the Conococheague Creek in Franklin County, at that time lying four miles outside of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (and about 25 miles west of Gettysburg). His parents were the Rev. Samuel Wylie Crawford, Sr., and Jane Crawford (née Agnew, originally from New York). His minister father was the principal at the Chambersburg Academy, but in April 1831 resigned to head up the “Academical Department” at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. His eldest son and namesake would also be enrolled into that same institution at the age of fourteen, receiving his B.A. by 1846, and a medical degree four years later.
His father had thereupon arranged for young Samuel — who would be commonly called by his middle name of “Wylie” by both family and friends, throughout his lifetime — to appear before a board which was sitting in New York City, to examine applicants for commissions as assistant surgeons in the U.S. Army. While awaiting his interview, Crawford was the guest of First Lt. Thomas Jackson, then stationed at Fort Hamilton (and who would later become the famed Confederate commander “Stonewall” Jackson).
Military Service (1851-1860)
Crawford stood first among the six candidates who were accepted by this board, and was duly commissioned as an Assistant Surgeon and First Lt. in the regular U.S. Army as of March 10, 1851, before sailing for Texas on his initial posting. He served at various outposts such as Fort Croghan, before finally being permanently assigned to El Paso, where he remained for three years. Ordered to return East, he asked permission from the Secretary of War to travel through Mexico on his homeward journey, reaching the Mexican capital and presenting himself before the American Ambassador, who — impressed by Anderson’s fluency in Spanish and ability to travel through that country — asked that the young medical officer delay his trip, so as to convey some important dispatches to Washington. While awaiting these papers, Crawford scaled the snow-capped Popocatepetl and Ixtaccíhuatl volcanoes overlooking Mexico City, before eventually departing for Washington and successfully delivering his consignment of documents.
Crawford was thereupon posted by the U.S. Army’s Medical Department to Newport, Rhode Island, for a couple of years, then sent to serve out West once more:
Here he saw service, abundant and severe, in Kansas, in the upper Missouri region, and on the Platte. A portion of this time he was attached to the Second Regiment Infantry, which he joined near the end of the Kansas war  at Fort Scott, Kansas — a regiment he was in after years to command as its Colonel, and of which Nathaniel Lyon was then one of the captains and an officer of the garrison.
Assignment to Moultrie (1860)
Recalled in the summer of 1860 from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for routine “examination and promotion” by the Medical Department, Crawford was breakfasting with friends while home on leave in Newport, when he received an urgent telegraph from Washington on September 7, 1860, directing him to “proceed forthwith to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, and report for duty to the commanding officer of that station.” Travelling by train all day until he reached Charleston that same night, he reported next morning to Col. John Lane Gardner on Sullivan’s Island, and learned that his medical predecessor, Dr. Bernard M. Byrne, had died — supposedly of yellow fever, although it soon turned out to have been from non-contagious dengue or “broken-bone fever.”
As one of the very few doctors on Sullivan’s Island, Crawford was frequently consulted by civilian patients, many of whom also had homes in Charleston, where he attended them as well. This afforded him ample opportunity to witness the progress of secession, including attendance at public meetings and legislative sessions in Secession Hall. He furthermore actively participated in the strengthening of Fort Moultrie against any surprise assault, in his military capacity as a Captain. Abner Doubleday would later recall Crawford as “a genial companion, studious, and full of varied information.”
After Maj. Robert Anderson suddenly withdrew Moultrie’s garrison into Fort Sumter on the evening of December 26, 1860, Crawford returned next morning to recover more supplies, before Moultrie was finally abandoned altogether to Confederate occupation. He served courageously in defense of Sumter during its bombardment on April 12-13, 1861, and was one of the last Federal defenders evacuated for New York City.
Civil War Career & Death (1861-1892)
A month after quitting Sumter, Crawford was summoned to Washington to meet Pres. Abraham Lincoln, who offered him an appointment to active line-duty as a Major in the 14th U. S. Infantry Regiment under Col. William T. Sherman, which the 31-year-old Crawford accepted on May 14, 1861, resigning his medical commission. He would be promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers on April 25, 1862, bringing his younger brother Alex along as aide-de-camp, and launched his brigade in a successful flanking assault at the Battle of Cedar Mountain that same August 1862, only to be mauled and driven back in disarray by Stonewall Jackson’s counter-attack. One month later at the Battle of Antietam, Crawford's unit suffered heavy casualties again, and he himself was wounded in a thigh (some say by a self-inflicted gunshot), which would put him out of action until February 1863 and plague him for the rest of his life.
He had nonetheless recovered sufficiently to return to active field-duty by June 1863, being placed in command of a division of Pennsylvania Reserves, which Crawford personally led in a gallant charge across the northern end of Plum Run Valley late that same July 2nd at the Battle of Gettysburg, pushing back a Confederate advance. He furthermore served in the Overland Campaign, at Spotsylvania, Five Forks, and in the final Appomattox Campaign, having been promoted to brevet Major-General late in 1864. At the conclusion of hostilities, he returned to Charleston Harbor as an honored guest, to be present at the ceremonies raising the old Union flag over Fort Sumter once more.
Crawford retired from active duty in February 1873 and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East, before returning home to compile a detailed account of his service at Fort Moultrie, which was published in 1887 by Charles Webster and Company of New York under the title Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861. Crawford died in Philadelphia on November 3, 1892, and was buried in the city’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, along with several other members of his family.
Doubleday, Abner (1819-1893)
U.S. artillery officer who was second-in-command at peacetime Fort Moultrie, and a vocal Republican supporter throughout the escalating tensions of the autumn of 1860.
Birth & Education (1819-1842)
Born on June 26, 1819, in a one-room clapboard house which still stands at the corner of Fenwick and Washington Streets in Ballston Spa, a village in Saratoga County in upstate New York, Abner was the second of three sons (out of an eventual total of eight children) born to its local printer and newspaper publisher, Ulysses F. Doubleday, and his wife Hester. Abner’s family shifted west shortly after his birth to Auburn, New York, where his father founded the Cayuga Patriot newspaper and was elected to the United States Congress as a Jacksonian Democrat in 1831 and 1835, before losing most of his fortune during the financial Panic of 1837.
Prior to this setback, teenaged Abner had been sent to live with his uncle in Cooperstown, where he attended a private preparatory high school, as well as practicing as a surveyor and civil engineer for two years as far afield as Canada, before winning appointment through his father’s political connections to the United States Military Academy in September 1838. Doubleday proved remarkable among his fellow cadets in that he did not smoke, drink, or swear, and his record at West Point further noted that he was “correct in his deportment, social and communicative ... [but] rather averse to outdoor sports, and retiring in his manner.” He nonetheless proved to be only a mediocre student, and four years later graduated 24th in a class of 56 cadets, being commissioned on July 1, 1842 as a brevet Second Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment.
Early Military Service (1842-1858 )
Stationed for two years at Fort Johnson near Smithville [modern Southport], North Carolina, Doubleday’s company was moved to Fort McHenry in Maryland in 1844, and he was then transferred to the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment at Fort Preble, Maine. In the spring of 1845, he sailed with his new company from Portland for New York Harbor, to take part in the forthcoming “Military Occupation” of Texas — a breakaway province and new republic which was about to be annexed into the United States, over Mexico’s objections. By October 1845, Doubleday’s contingent reached Aransas Bay and disembarked to join Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor’s small army, which was awaiting developments around the hamlet of Corpus Christi. Doubleday was present when fighting actually erupted more than six months later at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and would see further action as Taylor’s expedition pushed into northern Mexico, at the Battles of Monterrey in September 1846 and Buena Vista in February 1847, being promoted to First Lieutenant by March 3, 1847.
Although Doubleday’s company then remained in place, manning a defensive battery overlooking the city of Saltillo — Taylor’s forward-most base — as the fighting shifted much farther south (thanks to a seaborne U.S. landing at Veracruz to open up a second front), the 28-year-old Doubleday nonetheless enjoyed his time in this exotic desert setting. Growing fluent in Spanish after several months’ residence, he roamed through northern Mexico and noted in his journal: “This is the very life I had been desirous of leading, to mix with the Mexican rancheros and see more of their manner of living.”
Once hostilities ceased, Doubleday — still only a First Lieutenant in the regular U.S. Army — returned home to be stationed in 1849 at Fort Columbus on Governors Island in New York Harbor, raising and conducting recruits to Florida. Next year, he was assigned to duty at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, and subsequently at Fort McHenry, Maryland, until 1852 — the same year in which he married 28-year-old Mary Hewitt on January 2, 1852, she being the strong-willed daughter of the Baltimore lawyer Robert Morton Hewitt.
Three months after this wedding, at the specific request of the U. S. Secretary of War and Senate because of Doubleday’s fluency in Spanish and proven ability to travel throughout Mexico, he was appointed to a special commission constituted to return into that country and investigate the fraudulent mine-claims of one George A. Gardiner, who had filed for significant compensation from the U.S. government for supposed damages to his Mexican properties. These investigators sailed from New Orleans to Veracruz aboard the steamer Fulton, then travelled inland to Mexico City and on to San Luis Potosí to view the actual mines in question. Regaining the Mexican capital by Christmas 1852, Doubleday’s party crossed to Havana, took the steamer Isabel on to Charleston, and regained Washington by January 16, 1853 to report their findings. Gardiner’s first trial ended in a hung jury, the second in his conviction more than a year later — at which point he swallowed strychnine, so as to avoid the humiliation of imprisonment.
Doubleday received the “thanks of Congress” and a financial bonus for his performance of this Mexican commission, and with his wife Mary rejoined his military company, which in the interim had been transferred to patrol against the Comanche, Apache, and other hostile tribes out of Fort Duncan at Eagle Pass, Texas. Unusually for Army wives of that period, Mary would accompany her husband on virtually all of his postings, and they remained together in that dangerous and torrid garrison throughout 1854. Another Army wife who passed through Fort Duncan during that interval, named Lydia Spencer Lane, recalled about Doubleday:
His wife was with him, a pretty, refined woman, and she was more afraid of a mouse than anything in the world. I remember she had a frame fixed all around the bed and covered with netting to keep them out. She did not seem to dread snakes at all, nothing but an awful mouse.
Her husband was finally promoted to full Captain as of March 3, 1855 and ordered to assume command over the 1st U.S. Artillery’s Company E at Fortress Monroe at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. His sentiments were later recorded in his Life in the Old Army: “The change was a very agreeable one and I was soon on my way, eager to revisit home, friends, and civilization once more.”
The Third Seminole War flared up around Christmas 1855, so that Doubleday and his company were deployed to Fort Dallas on the west side of Key Biscayne Bay in south Florida, arriving there with Mary on October 25, 1856, to engage in a year of fruitless pursuits of elusive tribal bands, before retiring into Fort Capron to rest. Once these hostilities ceased altogether that following May 1858, Doubleday’s company shut down Fort Capron, shifted to Fort Brooke at Tampa, then rotated out of Florida altogether for Fort Moultrie.
Garrison-Duty at Fort Moultrie (1858-1860)
Doubleday, his wife, Company E, and the regimental commander Lt.-Col. John L. Gardner reached this new posting aboard the steamer Gordon on June 16, 1858, joining Capt. Truman Seymour’s Company H to jointly constitute Moultrie’s new U.S. Army garrison. Doubleday took up residence in its Officers’ Quarters with Mary, the only woman living within the confines of the peacetime fort. Gardner as commandant, lived just outside in a fine big house directly opposite the Western Postern-Gate with his family. That same August 1858, a yellow-fever outbreak began amongst the companies of newly-arrived artillerymen, eventually infecting 49 — about a third of their total number — and killing 28. On October 7, 1858, Doubleday and two Lieutenants formally presented letters to Gardner, urging that charges be brought against the base surgeon, Dr. Bernard M. Byrne, for neglecting his duties. He was subsequently acquitted at his trial in April 1859, although with a reprimand added into his record.
And in order to minimize the possibility of any such future calamitous recurrence, Washington authorized Gardner to temporarily transplant his command (if necessary), as a preventive measure into a healthier locale during the hot summer season. The Colonel was consequently absent from Moultrie during much of the summer of 1859, scouting out potential arrangements around Smithville, North Carolina. As the senior officer left in residence, Doubleday acted as commandant during this absence, and in the sweltering heat of July 1859 had a disagreement with his own Company E subordinate, Lt. Otis H. Tillinghast. This dispute apparently began when the straitlaced Doubleday rebuked his Lieutenant for gambling at the post, which the latter denied. When threatened with legal action, Tillinghast angrily retorted in a letter written on July 27, 1859:
This threat is worthy of the officer, who a few days ago tried to induce his Adjutant [Tillinghast] to become a spy upon the other officers of the Post, by going to the Billiard Room, to see and report to him what was going on there; and when he declined the mission, did still urge him “to happen in” for some purpose.
Doubleday consequently brought charges against his Lieutenant for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline,” and Gardner headed up the general court-martial which eventually heard this matter on October 3, 1859. Tillinghast had meanwhile retained the services of the prominent Charleston attorney, William Henry Trescot, so that despite being found guilty and receiving an official admonishment, his verdict tellingly added that the judges were “… of the opinion that this is the severest sentence which can be awarded under the circumstances, as the evidence shows that the accused may have been tempted to this course by the compromising and vacillating conduct of his Commanding Officer [Doubleday].”
Possibly on account of this public embarrassment, Doubleday was to be absent from Moultrie on extended leave from late 1859 into the spring of 1860, although his mother’s illness and death that same November 4, 1859 at Bloomington, Indiana, may well have been a contributing factor. Tillinghast in turn left the fort on extended leave himself as of May 29, 1860 — around the same time that Doubleday rejoined his company.
As political tensions escalated throughout South Carolina that summer and autumn of 1860, Doubleday and his wife remained outspoken advocates of abolitionism and Republican resolve, even writing to Northern friends in a secret code, and passing along unsolicited information to their preferred Presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. Years later in his Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie in 1860-’61, Doubleday would note with some relish how he “… became quite unpopular in Charleston, partly on account of my anti-slavery sentiments, but more especially because some very offensive articles, written from that city, had appeared in the Northern papers, and were attributed to me.”
He actively approved of the strengthening of Moultrie’s neglected defenses, and viewed his elderly commandant with disfavor:
Colonel Gardner had done good service in the War of 1812 and in Mexico, but now, owing to his advanced age, was ill fitted to weather the storm that was about to burst upon us. In politics he was quite Southern, frequently asserting that the South had been treated outrageously in the question of the Territories, and defrauded of her just rights in other respects. He acquiesced, however, in the necessity of defending the fort should it be attacked; but as he lived with his family outside of the walls, he could not take a very active part himself. Indeed on one occasion, when a Secession meeting was held in our immediate vicinity, accompanied with many threats and noisy demonstrations, he sent word to me to assume command at once in his place.
The Colonel’s replacement, Maj. Robert Anderson, surprised Doubleday and the rest of his command by unexpectedly announcing a withdrawal across the harbor-mouth into Fort Sumter on the evening of December 26, 1860, abandoning Moultrie to the South Carolinian authorities. When the protracted encirclement of Sumter finally ended in its shelling by Confederate batteries on April 12-13, 1861, Doubleday aimed the cannon that fired the first return-shot.
Subsequent Career & Death (1861-1893)
A month after being evacuated to New York, Doubleday — who had been officially assigned to command Fort Hamilton — was promoted to Major of the 17th Infantry Regiment in the U.S. Army on May 14, 1861, and given command of artillery formations in the Army of the Potomac. Appointed as a Brigadier General of Volunteers early next year, he served in the Peninsula Campaign and Second Battle of Bull Run, and was wounded at the Battle of Antietam, his bravery — if not strategic skills — winning him promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel in the regular Army and to Major-General of Volunteers by March 1863.
Doubleday's 3rd Division was the second Union infantry formation to reinforce Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry at the opening of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, resisting stoutly for five hours before being overwhelmed and driven back to Cemetery Hill. However, Doubleday was demoted from corps commander because of this retreat by Maj.-Gen. George Meade, which he strongly resented. Fighting bravely throughout the remainder of this engagement, Doubleday was wounded in the neck and received a field-promotion to Brevet Colonel; but when Meade subsequently refused to restore his command over I Corps, Doubleday departed for Washington on July 7, 1863, and never again fought in the field.
He served in administrative capacities in the nation’s capital, and remained a loyal Republican and staunch supporter of Lincoln, even riding with the President on the train which carried him to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Once the Civil War ended, Doubleday reverted to his regular rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and assumed command of the 35th U.S. Infantry Regiment in September 1867. Stationed at San Francisco from 1869 to 1871, he took out a patent for the cable-car railway that still operates there today, although he signed away his rights when reassigned in 1871 to command of the 24th U.S. Infantry, an all African-American regiment with headquarters at Fort McKavett, Texas.
Doubleday retired from active duty in 1873, spending his last two decades in intellectual pursuits and veterans’ affairs, before finally dying of heart disease at Mendham, New Jersey on January 26, 1893. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Baseball Myth (1908)
As the sport of baseball soared in popularity across America during the early years of the 20th century, debate as to its origins heated up. The influential journalist and statistician, English-born Henry Chadwick, published an article in 1905 which declared that baseball had grown out of the older British games of rounders and cricket. Counter-arguments were made, maintaining that it had been a uniquely American invention, so that a former star-player turned sports-magnate named Albert G. Spalding appointed a special commission of his friends and colleagues to investigate this question. Citizens who might know anything about the founding of baseball were urged to write in, and one such letter was received on December 30, 1907 from elderly Abner Graves, claiming that baseball had been invented as long ago as 1839 by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York. The members accepted this account at face value, publishing their final report in 1908 which further asserted that the former Union General had even invented the word “baseball,” designed its diamond-shaped field, indicated fielders’ positions, and written down its rules.
Yet Graves had never mentioned any of these facts in his letter, nor was he ever interviewed by the commission. (His reliability as a witness would be further undermined when he was subsequently convicted of murdering his wife, thus spending his final days in an asylum for the criminally insane.) It is known that Doubleday was not living in Cooperstown in 1839, but rather at West Point, with no annotation in his records of having been granted leave. Among his extensive surviving correspondence and personal papers, no description of baseball can be found, and even the commission chairman — Abraham G. Mills, a lifelong friend — ever recalled hearing Doubleday so much as mention the game. It is today believed that the General’s cousin, also named Abner Doubleday but fifteen years his junior, may have been responsible for the organized effort at Cooperstown, although much later than 1839, when both he and Graves would have only been about five years of age.
But such was the appeal of baseball’s invention in a beautiful rural town, with no foreign influence or industrial backdrop, that Doubleday would find himself posthumously credited with its creation. This theory is universally dismissed by modern scholars.
Foster, John Gray (1823-1874)
Energetic U.S. engineering officer, who greatly enhanced peacetime Moultrie’s defenses, before its isolated Federal garrison slipped across the harbor-mouth into Fort Sumter.
Birth & Education (1823-1846)
Born on May 27, 1823 at Whitfield, a small town nestled on the northern fringe of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, he was the middle child — and third son — of seven children born to Major Perley Foster and his wife Mary Gray. Of limited means, his family moved to the larger city of Nashua when John was only ten, where he first attended school, before being enrolled in the Hancock Academy, then prepped at Crosby's Nashua Literary Institute for admission into West Point.
Appointed by the local U.S. Representative Charles G. Atherton, 19-year-old Foster was duly enrolled in the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1842, and graduated exactly four years later — fourth in a class of 59 cadets, such a high academic standing that he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, and assigned three months later to the prestigious Engineer Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Mexican War (1847-1848)
But as the Mexican War was raging, and the invasion of northern Mexico had already concluded with the capture of Monterrey and its surrounding district by Gen. Zachary Taylor, Foster got himself attached to the newly-created company of sappers, miners and pontonniers which accompanied Gen. Winfield Scott’s seaborne expedition, to open up a second front by disembarking at Veracruz. The young Second Lieutenant served in the ensuing siege of that seaport from March 9-29, 1847, then fought in the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 17-18, 1847, as Scott’s small army forged inland toward Mexico City.
On the outskirts of the Mexican capital itself, Foster won a brevet promotion to First Lieutenant on August 20, 1847, for his “gallant and meritorious conduct” during the twin Battles of Contreras and Churubusco. He then commanded a column of infantry during the assault against the fortified Molino del Rey strongpoint on September 8th, being severely wounded in a hip. Doctors even proposed amputating his injured leg, but he talked them out of it, although he would walk with a noticeable limp for the remainder of his life. Promoted to Brevet Captain for his bravery during this crucial assault, he was returned home to Nashua for an extended leave of absence, so as to convalesce and recuperate from his wounds.
Peacetime Service (1848-1860)
Once hostilities ceased and he regained his strength, the 25-year-old Foster reverted to his rank of Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and on May 24, 1848, was assigned as assistant engineer for the construction of Fort Carroll on the Patapsco River in Maryland. He remained employed on that project for the next four years, during which time he also married 21-year-old Mary L. Moale on January 21, 1851 at Baltimore — the daughter of Samuel Moale, a well-to-do lawyer who had served in Maryland’s First Regiment of Volunteer Artillery during the War of 1812, and remained its Colonel — by whom he would have a daughter named Annie M., born that same November 3rd.
Foster was then transferred to the Coast Survey Office in Washington, D. C, from March 20, 1852 to April 26, 1854, and promoted to First Lieutenant as of April 1, 1854. After returning to Fort Carroll until the end of the latter year, he was sent to the United States Military Academy at West Point, to begin serving as principal Assistant Professor of Engineering as of January 11, 1855. Two-and-a-half years later, Foster departed on June 27, 1857, to assume the duty of superintending engineer for the survey of a new fort-site at Willets' Point on Long Island, New York, as well as participating in preliminary operations for the building of another fort at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. He would be variously employed in the construction of Fort Sumter; repairs to Fort Moultrie; Forts Macon and Caswell in North Carolina; and Fort Carroll from 1858-1860. He would also be promoted to Captain in the Corps of Engineers as of July 1, 1860, for “fourteen years continuous service.”
Service at Moultrie (1860)
Foster was to distinguish himself after being specially detailed to return to restive Charleston, South Carolina, so as to upgrade all its Federal harbor defenses against any possible secessionist seizure. He reached Moultrie by the morning of November 11, 1860, and threw himself into this work. He maintained an office in Charleston proper, but was frequently present at diverse work-sites, and lived on Sullivan’s Island with his wife Mary and only child Annie, his 23-year-old brother-in-law Edward Moale, and a black servant named Benjamin Scott, in a cottage near Fort Moultrie rented from the wealthy Charles H. Simonton. (Foster later mentioned in a letter dated on January 12, 1861 and addressed to his superior, Gen. Joseph G. Totten, following the Federal garrison’s escape into Fort Sumter: “All of my personal effects are in the house that I occupied on Sullivan’s Island, with the exception of some few things that I have here.” War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume 1, Page 138.)
In that highly-charged atmosphere of late 1860, Foster also proved a strong leader for the beleaguered outpost, beyond his engineering contributions. More than six feet tall and powerfully built, a veteran soldier, Capt. Abner Doubleday would later remember him as “one of the most fearless and reliable men in the service.” When Maj. Robert Anderson furthermore arrived ten days later to supplant Col. John L. Gardner as commandant, the pace of Foster’s labors accelerated. By the first week of December 1860, he had 260 laborers toiling away — 125 at Moultrie, 115 in unfinished Sumter, and 30 more at Castle Pinckney — so that new defenses rapidly began taking shape. In addition to a pair of caponnieres and a fifteen-foot-wide ditch encircling Moultrie, Foster added a bastionette to its northwest point, and bricked up its two postern entrances “at Major Anderson’s request, as he felt too weak to use them for sorties, and as the doors might be burst in, both the iron and woodwork being old and defective.”
As tensions rose, Foster even used his laborers to mount howitzers and raise merlons, explaining to his superiors in Washington how he had used his hired civilian workers on such military tasks because “the garrison is too weak to undertake any work, beside the drills.” He also spread rumors about having heavily mined Moultrie, to give pause to South Carolinian militiamen. Foster’s wife Mary hosted a dinner-party on Christmas Day, 1860, at their “residence in the neighboring village of Moultrieville,” which was attended by Major Anderson and several dignitaries from Charleston. and when Anderson abruptly announced his decision to evacuate his fort for Sumter on the evening of December 26, 1860, Foster remained behind with a small party to cripple Moultrie’s main armament by burning the carriages of eleven guns facing Sumter, which would be difficult to remount without a gin. He even cut down Moultrie’s flagstaff, before slipping across the harbor with his party next morning.
Subsequent Service & Death (1861-1874)
Foster served bravely during the subsequent bombardment of Fort Sumter by encircling Confederate batteries on April 12-13, 1861, and was evacuated to New York City. After being briefly reassigned to the Engineer Bureau at Washington, D. C., from April 22 to May 5, 1861 and declining appointment as a full Major in the 11th U.S. Infantry, he was instead sent to superintend the construction of Sandy Hook Fort in New Jersey until November 22, 1861. Given the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers one month previously, he then assumed command over his new troops at Annapolis, Maryland by November 25, 1861, and five days before Christmas departed as a brigade commander in Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s seaborne expedition to secure a Union foothold in North Carolina.
Foster received a field-promotion to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in the regular Army on February 8, 1862, for his “gallant and meritorious services” in the capture of the Confederate garrison defending Roanoke Island, as well as to Brevet Colonel for the subsequent securing of Newberne, North Carolina, by that same March 14th. Once Fort Macon was invested and subdued on April 26, 1862, the bulk of Burnside’s army was diverted to the Peninsula Campaign, leaving Foster at the head of the 18th Army Corps in command of the Department of North Carolina from July 1, 1862. He successfully held this enclave against assorted Confederate counter-thrusts over the ensuing year, during which he also rose to full Major in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as of March 3, 1863.
Returning into Washington that summer, Foster received promotion to Major-General of Volunteers (back-dated to July 18, 1862) and was placed in command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina on July 1, 1863. Severely injured when his horse accidentally fell on him on December 23, 1863, he was obliged to relinquish his departmental command and convalesce on sick-leave in Baltimore from February 9 to May 5, 1864. Foster resumed his station at Hilton Head Island in time to support Gen. William T. Sherman’s advance northward in late 1864, and at the conclusion of the war was put in charge of Florida.
As U.S. armed forces were restored to a peacetime footing, Foster was mustered out of the Volunteer service effective September 1, 1866, and resumed his duties at the Engineer Bureau as a Major in January 1867. Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel by March 7, 1867, he was posted two months later to superintend defensive works at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and would spend the next five years on a variety of engineering projects. His wife Mary died in New York on June 6, 1871, and the 48-year-old widower promptly married 18-year-old Anna or “Annie” Johnson Davis of New York in a lavish ceremony at St. Matthew the Apostle Church in Washington, D. C., that following January 9, 1872, which was attended by a bevy of dignitaries such as General Sherman and the U.S. Secretary of War. Foster himself died at Nashua on September 2, 1874, still only 51 years of age, and was buried behind its Unitarian Universalist Church. Fort Foster, on the southwestern tip of Gerrish Island in Kittery, Maine, would later be named in his honor.
Gardner, John Lane (1793-1869)
Long-serving U.S. artillery officer, who late during his career was put in command of peacetime Fort Moultrie, only to be relieved by Maj. Robert Anderson as armed confrontation was looming large.
Birth & Early Career (1793-1844)
Gardner had been born in Boston as long ago as August 1, 1793, the second son and third of five children of a Massachusetts merchant and militia captain named Robert Gardner, and his wife Sarah or “Sally” (née Dench). His father having quarreled with various militia colleagues and been cashiered, the senior Gardner joined the U.S. Army, before failing in business as well and consequently moving his entire family to Washington, D.C.
His teenaged middle son John was enrolled into the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, military records indicating that he was appointed as a Third Lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment as of May 20, 1813, then promoted to Second Lieutenant on March 28, 1814 — during Maj.-Gen. James Wilkinson’s final ill-fated push into Canada. Two days afterward, this American army forged through heavy snow to assault the British forces dug in at La Colle river-ford (ten miles west of Île aux Noix, Quebec), and young John Gardner was among many who fell wounded in their attempts to carry the thick stone mill serving as the defenders’ strongpoint. Wilkinson subsequently retreated south with his demoralized army into Plattsburgh, New York, to face a court of inquiry.
Soon after the War of 1812 had concluded and American forces were being demobilized, the 21-year-old Gardner transferred into the U.S. Artillery on May 17, 1815, becoming a First Lieutenant in this branch three years later, as of April 20, 1818. He was also appointed an Assistant Quartermaster on May 18, 1820, joined the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment on June 1, 1821, and then moved on to the 4th Artillery during a general reorganization ordered by the War Department that same August 16th. Gardner was promoted to Captain on November 1, 1823 and at the age of 32, married 21-year-old Caroline Goldsborough — the daughter of Charles and Catharine Goldsborough — on October 6, 1825 in the District of Columbia, with whom he would eventually have four children: daughters Elizabeth Greenbury, Caroline Goldsborough, and Catharine Frances, plus a son christened Henry W.
According to the U.S. Returns from Military Posts, Gardner was posted to Fort Marion Barracks at St. Augustine in East Florida from October 1825 until March 1826, at which time he was returned to the regimental base at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He remained on its books until August 1827, although Gardner may have also been detached for a period to the Quartermaster General’s Office in Washington, as a note is known to have been written by him from that office to Secretary of State Henry Clay on June 5, 1827 (see The Papers of Henry Clay, Vol. 6, 1981 University Press of Kentucky edition, Pages 649-650). The 4th Artillery’s headquarters was subsequently moved to Fort Columbus, New York, where Gardner figured on its books from September 1828 until April 1829.
Although not himself a graduate of the United States Military Academy, Gardner was detached for duty at West Point in May 1829, remaining at that institution until at least October 1830. The Register for the Academy’s graduating classes in both June 1829 and June 1830 listed “Captain J. L. Gardner (4th Artillery), Assistant Quarter Master,” as a member of its academic staff. (A new cadet who happened to be enrolled at West Point on July 1, 1830 was Edgar Allan Poe, but he only remained at the Academy for a few months.) By June 1832, Gardner was mentioned as being stationed in “New York Harbor,” from where he was transferred back to Fortress Monroe once again in April 1833. He was brevetted as a Major of artillery on November 1, 1833 — although merely “for ten years’ faithful service in one grade,” rather than any particular distinction. Like many other career officers, Gardner’s advancement had become stalled in the peacetime Army.
Almost two years later, he was still listed in the Army and Navy Chronicle issue of August 20, 1835 (Vol. 1, No. 34, Page 272) as being in command of Company A of the 4th Artillery at Fortress Monroe — a unit which was temporarily transferred in September 1835 to Fort Washington in Maryland, before being rotated back that same November. His posting at the head of Company A at Fortress Monroe was repeated on Page 142 of the September 1, 1836 issue of the Army and Navy Chronicle, but Gardner had in fact already sailed with this unit that previous month to Gareys Ferry, Florida, to participate in the on-going Second Seminole War. His artillerymen operated out of Fort Heilman during September-October 1836, before taking part in the clumsy pursuit by Florida Gov. and militia Gen. Richard K. Call’s into the Wahoo Swamp. During the ensuing confused confrontation against the Seminoles, it was reported that “[Lieutenant-Colonel] Pierce and Gardner heard more of the whistling of rifle balls than any other commanders,” and he was commended for showing “the utmost activity, skill, and intrepidity” during this engagement.
Once Call was supplanted by the regular U.S. Army Maj.-Gen. Thomas Jesup, Gardner’s company was garrisoned at Volusia, East Florida in early 1837, as well as subsequently rotating among several other outposts on patrol . After a brief respite in Fortress Monroe during August-September 1837, when hostilities seemed to have died down, Gardner sailed for Florida once again that same October, as part of a renewed effort to clear the Seminoles from the St. John’s River (Army and Navy Chronicle, Vol. V, No. 17, Whole No. 147, Page 265). Lt. John Pickell, Adjutant of the 4th U.S. Artillery Regiment at that time, recorded in his second journal how he found Gardner’s two companies occupying Volusia once more on November 17, 1837, and Gardner was listed as still being stationed at Fort Micanopy as late as April 1838.
But he and his company were withdrawn from Florida shortly thereafter, to help remove the Cherokee Indians from western North Carolina, before returning into Fort Columbus from July-September 1838. Late that same year, the regiment was ordered back to East Florida and employed in constant scouting, as well as in building roads and forts. Gardner remained at Fort Mellon until February 1839. A travel-notice inserted on Page 267 of the April 25, 1839 edition of the Army and Navy Chronicle (Vol. VIII, No. 17, Whole No. 225) recorded how Gardner and another U.S. Army officer had reached Charleston from Savannah aboard the steam-packet Thorn on April 16th, and the May 16, 1839 issue of this same publication reported that Gardner had been returned to Fort Columbus, where the entire regiment was gathered two weeks later to attend the summer-long “Grand Camp of Instruction” at Trenton, New Jersey.
He is known to have travelled during this interlude to Washington, D.C., arriving there on June 6, 1839 according to Vol. VIII, No. 24, Whole No. 232, Page 378 of the June 13th edition of the Army and Navy Chronicle. This was to be the same year that Gardner apparently self-published a book entitled Military Control, or Command and Government of the Army, written anonymously — the author’s name being given simply as “An Officer of the Line” — and himself paying to have it printed by A. B. Claxton & Company in the national capital, so as to be sold for fifty cents a copy. Gardner moreover remained as part of the instructional “Camp Washington” throughout August-September 1839, before being sent with Companies A and K to take command of the frontier outpost of Fort Gratiot, Michigan from October 1839 until October 1841, with a brief detachment to the Madison Barracks in New York Harbor during July 1840.
Gardner was permanently assigned to the Madison Barracks as of November 1841, after the 4th Artillery’s headquarters had been relocated into Buffalo, New York. Then he was transferred with a single company, to assume command over Fort Severn at Annapolis, Maryland in July 1842. In a side-note, it is also recorded how he presided as judge at the court-martial of Second Lt. Bryant P. Tilden, Jr., of the 2nd Infantry Regiment on January 21, 1843. Two years later, the American Almanac for 1845 would still list Gardner as being a Brevet Major of the 4th Artillery Regt., in command of Fort Severn, and in his private capacity he was recorded as a lay member of Maryland’s Protestant Episcopal Church convention that same May 1845, attending along with some of his in-laws. On August 15, 1845, the Secretary of War ordered that Fort Severn pass from Army to Navy control, so that Gardner — once this handover had been completed — was directed to proceed with his company to rejoin the bulk of his regiment at its headquarters in Fortress Monroe. He remained there from September 1845, until the following summer. Shortly after rejoining, the Niles National Register had also announced in its February 14, 1846 edition (Vol. 69, Page 370) how “John L. Gardiner [sic]” had been promoted to full Major in the U.S. Army as of October 13, 1845.
Mexican War Service (1846-1848)
As a threat of hostilities with Mexico escalated, four of the 4th Artillery’s companies were sent from Fortress Monroe in advance under Lt.-Col. M. M. Payne that same autumn of 1845, to join Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor’s “Army of Occupation” as it was marshaling at Corpus Christi, Texas. These four fought in the opening battles of the war at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in May 1846, before Gardner was dispatched from Fortress Monroe with Companies F and H in July 1846, disembarking at Fort Polk on Brazos Island to reinforce the American army. He remained at this seaside base with Company F, as the remainder of the batteries advanced with Taylor into northern Mexico, seizing Monterrey by late September 1846 and repulsing Santa Anna’s counter-offensive at Buena Vista in February 1847. [The 4th Regiment’s octogenarian Col. John de B. Walbach had not departed Virginia on campaign, because of his veryadvanced age.]
Mexican resistance having evaporated in the northern theater after the Battle of Buena Vista, Gardner was reassigned with the 4th Artillery’s Companies A, D, F, G, and H to join Brig. Gen. David E. Twiggs’ division in Gen. Winfield Scott’s seaborne expedition, which landed at Veracruz to open up a second front in early March 1847. Gardner’s batteries frequently distinguished themselves as this second American army fought its way inland, receiving a brevet or field-promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel on April 18, 1847 for his service at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and another to brevet Colonel on August 20, 1847 for his actions in the encounter at Contreras, where he commanded the right column of the attack.
Once Mexico City fell, Gardner would also play a significant role in its military occupation. According to Scott’s General Order No. 15, issued in that city on January 11, 1848, Major Gardner was appointed “superintendent of the direct and indirect taxes for the support of the army on that portion of Mexico called the Federal District,” a large region which encompassed the Mexican capital and many outlying jurisdictions. Almost three months later, hostilities officially ended and the American forces began evacuating via Veracruz. Gardner and his 4th Artillery returned triumphantly into Fortress Monroe by late May 1848, where he was able to give away his eldest daughter Elizabeth in marriage to the young engineering subaltern (and fellow Mexican War veteran) Isaac F. Quinby at Old Point Comfort that same October 6th, before being ordered to depart with a battalion comprised of Companies G, H, and I to assume command over Forts Pickens and McRee at Pensacola, Florida.
Peacetime Deployments (1848-1857)
Arriving in Pensacola Bay before that same year of 1848 was out, the 55-year-old Gardner and his 4th Artillery officers and gunners were at first dismayed by the dilapidated state of its vacated quarters. Refurbishment and repairs immediately began, supplies of fresh provisions were arranged, while Gardner wrote protests to Washington. The June 6, 1849, edition of Niles’s National Register of Philadelphia (Vol. 75, No. 23, Page 353) mentioned the following news-item:
Col. John L. Gardner of the 4th Artillery, arrived here yesterday from Pensacola, where he has been stationed in command of the posts near that place, to assume the command of the Military Department lately held by Major General Brooke. This department extends, we believe, from Baton Rouge to Key West. We learn, however, that Col. Gardner, with the consent of Major General Gaines, commanding the Western Division, will make his headquarters at Pensacola.
Gardner did indeed transfer the 4th Artillery’s headquarters out of Forts Pickens and McRee into the more habitable mainland town of Pensacola, and personally moved around among various outposts in Florida throughout his initial tenure as that district’s commandant. In October 1850, the 4th Artillery was rotated out of West Florida to Fort Columbus, Gardner departing with his last company from Fort Myers that same December 1850.
Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in the U.S. Army on August 3, 1852, Gardner was also made Brevet Colonel of the 1st Artillery Regt., and so had to depart Fort McHenry and return to Pensacola that same November 1852 for another year of duty there, as it was now a base for the 1st Artillery. Upon leaving Florida in December 1853, he was placed in command of Fort McHenry, and remained at that posting until at least May 1856.
Tenure at Moultrie (1858-1860)
Gardner arrived to assume command over Fort Moultrie on June 16, 1858 (as he himself stated next year, on Page 5 of the court-martial Proceedings against Dr. Bernard M. Byrne). The returns for mid-1858 certainly identify “Lt. Col. and Bvt. Col. J. L. Gardner” as being the commandant at Moultrie. He, his wife, and unmarried daughter Caroline, all lived in a fine big house opposite its Western Postern exit, the lease paid for by the U.S. government. Shortly after its new garrison had been installed from their extended tour in Florida, one of these newly-arrived soldiers fell ill on August 12, 1858, while serving as Gardner’s household orderly. At first misdiagnosed as simply suffering from gastritis, this man then abruptly worsened and died four days later, of an evident case of yellow fever. A servant girl in Gardner’s home sickened next, on August 25th and died five days afterward, signaling the beginning of an epidemic.
Though mustering fewer than fifty men at Fort Moultrie, he effected an arrangement with Joseph Pannell Taylor, commissary-general, for six months’ provisions, and announced his intention to defend the fort to the last extremity against the secessionists. However, some also believed he favored Southern sentiments, “frequently asserting that the South had been treated outrageously in the question of the Territories, and defrauded of her just rights in other respects.” (Bearss, p. 157.)
Lt. Theodore Talbot wrote to his sister in 1860, that Gardner was “utterly incompetent to command a post under the most favorable circumstances.”
Subsequent Career & Death (1861-1869)
Secretary of War John B. Floyd relieved him from command in mid-November 1860, ordering Gardner to report to Gen. David E. Twiggs in Texas, while Maj. Robert Anderson succeeded to the command at Fort Moultrie. Next year, Gardner was promoted to Colonel of the 2nd Artillery Regiment, but in 1862 was — by his own request — placed on the retired list, and employed merely in a recruiting capacity for the remainder of the Civil War. He was brevetted a Brigadier-General in 1865 “for long and faithful service,” and died in Wilmington, Delaware, on February 19, 1869, being buried in Immanuel Episcopal Churchyard at New Castle.
Macomb, Alexander (1782-1841)
U.S. engineering officer who very early in his career, built the third and final version of Fort Moultrie, and went on to attain the highest Army rank in a remarkably distinguished military career.
Birth & Early Education (1782-1802)
Born on April 3, 1782 in a large two-storey home beside the British-held frontier outpost at Detroit, Michigan, he was the third son and seventh of ten children of the wealthy fur-trader and land-speculator Alexander Macomb, Sr., and his Franco-American wife Mary Catherine Navarre. The infant’s father and uncle William were the richest men in the region, controlling much of its water-borne commerce and vast tracts of territory. Shortly after the American Revolutionary War had ended, Alexander Macomb moved his family to New York City, and at first prospered there as well, on a grand scale. His magnificent home on Broadway, standing between Trinity Church and the Battery, was even leased by the U.S. government in 1791 as the presidential mansion for George Washington. However, the senior Macomb’s purchase of 3.6 million acres of virgin land in Upper New York State proved to be a financial disaster, ending with his ruin and the indignity of being hauled off to debtor’s prison during the Panic of 1792, more than $300,000 in debt.
Prior to this reversal, his eight-year-old son Alexander had been enrolled in the Newark Academy in New Jersey, proving to be an exceptional student. His education and comfortable upbringing would be continued thanks to the marriage of his eldest sister Jane to the well-to-do Robert Kennedy in 1795, who owned a handsome estate named Peterboro on the Passaic River near Newark. Three years later, as tensions heightened against Revolutionary France, 16-year-old Alexander was elected a member on May 28, 1798 of an exclusive volunteer company known as the “New York Rangers,” attached to the 3rd New York State Militia Regiment. That same autumn, young Macomb successfully petitioned for a transfer into the regular U.S. Army, which was being expanded for war, his application being supported by a recommendation from Maj.-Gen. Alexander Hamilton. He was commissioned on January 10, 1799 as a Cornet in the Light Dragoons, and assigned to staff duty in New York City as an assistant to Brig. Gen. William North, the Adjutant-General. Promoted to Second Lieutenant in March 1799, Macomb was honorably discharged by June 1800, once this Quasi-War with France had ended.
He thereupon travelled into Canada to visit British Gen. Napier C. Burton’s headquarters garrison at Montreal, and upon his return into the United States was commissioned on February 10, 1801 by Pres. Thomas Jefferson, as a Second Lieutenant of Dragoons. Ordered to Philadelphia on recruiting service, 18-year-old Macomb — fluent in French ever since childhood — enjoyed ample free time there to study “the science of fortification and military topography” under an exiled French engineering officer. His interest whetted by this introduction, Macomb — after conducting his body of recruits to Pittsburgh — was temporarily assigned to serve under an acquaintance, Maj. Jonathan Williams of the 2nd Regiment of Artillerists and Engineers, “in preparing the drawings, calculations, estimates, and memoirs necessary to illustrate the plans” of a proposed new fort which was to be erected on Black Rock, opposite Fort Erie.
Macomb was subsequently retained as an aide on the staff of General Wilkinson, departing his encampment at Southwest Point at the juncture of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers in August 1801, to conduct negotiations with various native tribes for American expansion and settlement. A treaty was finally concluded at Milledgeville, Georgia, by July 1802, which the 20-year-old Lieutenant then conveyed to Washington via Charleston, South Carolina. During his year-long absence in the wilderness, the U.S. Army had once again been contracted in size, so that Macomb now found himself transferred to the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment.
Initial Engineering Duties (1802-1806)
But Macomb preferred to instead take a commission proffered by Williams as First Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, which he accepted in place of his infantry posting on October 12, 1802 so as to follow this officer to West Point, where Lieutenant-Colonel Williams had been named as first Superintendent of the newly-created United States Military Academy. Macomb was to serve as both instructor and student among this first generation of cadets, and next summer furthermore married his sixteen-year-old cousin Catharine Macomb on July 23, 1803. The 21-year-old Macomb was ordered that same autumn to preside over the court-martial at Fredericktown, Maryland, of Col. Thomas Butler (for refusing a direct order to cut his old-fashioned queue of long hair), and conducted these proceedings so admirably that several participants suggested the young Lieutenant write an official treatise for general courts-martial.
After completing two more years of study at West Point, Macomb reported to Washington in May 1805, and was promoted to Captain in the Corps of Engineers as of June 11, 1805. An admiring biographer would later describe him as “above the ordinary height, being five feet, nine and a half inches”, with blue eyes. His first assignment entailed repairing the harbor works at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and early in 1806 he was appointed Superintendent of the new national depot and armory which were being built at remote Rocky Mount (or “Mount Dearborn” as of 1803, in honor of Gen. Henry Dearborn), located about 36 miles up the Catawba River above Camden, South Carolina. While toiling away on this difficult project in its wild riverside setting, Macomb would devote his spare time to writing the suggested treatise on Army courts-martial, consulting with the retired Gen. William R. Davie, who lived eighteen miles away on an estate named Tivoli, near Landsford. A draft would also be sent to Davie’s friend, Maj.-Gen. Charles Coatsworth Pinckney, for revision.
Construction of Fort Moultrie (1807-1809)
Macomb was also directed in early July 1806 by Colonel Williams, in his capacity as Chief of the Corps of Engineers, to visit Charleston and prepare a report on its various U.S. military sites, which had been leveled by a massive hurricane almost two years previously. The 24-year-old Captain was ordered back to the seaport for a second time in early January 1807, to begin contracting for local materials “necessary for repairing old and erecting some new works,” yet was hindered by repeated bureaucratic delays. When Colonel Williams disembarked at Charleston on a regional inspection-tour on March 12, 1807, he was disappointed to find that no progress had been made on reconstituting any of its harbor defenses.
Williams consequently suggested six weeks later to Secretary of War Dearborn, that the ruins of old Fort Moultrie be entirely replaced with a new structure, and other defensive enhancements made around the harbor. Yet before any funds could be voted by Congress, the British frigate H.M.S. Leopard unexpectedly fired into the neutral U.S. warship Chesapeake in a confrontation off Virginia, provoking an international crisis. Amid the nation-wide rush to bolster American coastal defenses, Macomb was welcomed back into Charleston from Rocky Mount for a third time, bringing orders to temporarily reinforce old Moultrie’s ruins with palmetto logs and sand, while sturdier materials could be gathered for the erection of a proper new fort. Yet he was disappointed to find that the assembled South Carolina militiamen refused to perform any kind of manual labor, instead insisting that it all be done by slaves hired out by their masters, for which expenditure Macomb had no authorization. He therefore returned to Rocky Mount by mid-September 1807, to continue his work there.
Congress finally voted to fund construction of a major new nationwide chain of coastal defenses on November 24, 1807, which would become known collectively as the “Second System” fortifications. Macomb, now with a proper budget and promoted to Major, regained Charleston on February 18, 1808, and immediately launched into a series of labors intended to strengthen all its seaside defenses. As part of this broad effort, old Moultrie’s remnants were stripped of salvageable materials such as bricks, to start a new enclosure a short distance behind it. A single-level structure gradually emerged under his supervision, with three sides facing out over Charleston’s ship-channels, intended to be armed with guns mounted en barbette. Design-elements conformed to other American forts of this same generation, and Moultrie’s new enclosure was completed before year’s end with the installation of its gateway.
Sometime during that ensuing winter of 1808-1809, the 26-year-old Macomb sat for an engraved portrait by the famed French exile, Charles de Saint-Mémin, who was on tour through Charleston from his studio and home in Burlington, New Jersey. The young engineer officially turned over his finished version of Fort Moultrie, with seven of its guns already mounted, to Lt.-Col. John Smith of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment on December 19, 1809, who had come from Rocky Mount with two companies of regulars, plus a troop of light dragoons. These soldiers were embarked from Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, and shuttled across the harbor aboard boats to Sullivan’s Island, so as to be installed as Fort Moultrie’s permanent garrison.
Subsequent Career (1810-1841)
Macomb remained as Chief Engineer for all works in the Southern states, his headquarters being at Charleston, and was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on February 25, 1811. He presided over the court-martial and acquittal of his old commander, Major-General Wilkinson, at Fredericktown that same September 1811, and next spring was summoned to Washington to be appointed Adjutant-General on April 28, 1812, as war with Britain was threatening. When these hostilities actually erupted soon thereafter, he immediately requested line-duty (which was denied to engineers), and so was commissioned on July 6, 1812 as Colonel of the newly-created 3rd Regiment of Artillery, which was being formed in New York.
Macomb marched his regiment from Greenbush to Sackets Harbor in November 1812, so as to participate in Commo. Isaac Chauncey’s assault against Kingston [Ontario], but arrived to find this squadron already gone. Once it returned and was laid up for the winter, Macomb remained in command at Sackets Harbor, despite seeking to actively participate in renewed offensives into Canada next spring. He missed the taking of York [modern Toronto], but was present in the aftermath to the capture of Fort George in late May, 1813. And he took part in Wilkinson’s ill-fated invasion attempt, which was crippled at Crysler’s Farm and retired into winter quarters at French Mills by November 13, 1813. After a cross-country trek under flag-of-truce into Canada, Macomb was promoted to Brigadier on January 24, 1814 and given command of the deceased Gen. Leonard Covington’s brigade. Wilkinson was recalled, but Macomb distinguished himself in the subsequent defense of Plattsburgh, New York, against a large Anglo-Canadian army under Sir George Prevost in early September 1814, winning a brevet promotion to Major-General and a Congressional Gold Medal.
Once the War of 1812 concluded, the U.S. Army was ordered in March 1815 to reduce to a peacetime strength of 10,000 troops within two months, only two Major-Generals and four Brigadiers being retained on active duty; Macomb was senior among the latter quartet. Initially assigned to command over the Third Military Department with his headquarters in New York City, he was transferred in 1816 to the Fifth Military Department at Detroit, a city which he had not visited in more than a quarter-century. His five-year tenure in that wilderness would prove to be very successful, as he established new Great Lake outposts at Fort Gratiot, Chicago, Michilimackinac, Green Bay, etc.
Another contraction in U.S. Army strength reduced him to the rank of Colonel, although he was then recalled to be appointed as Head of the Engineer Department in Washington, D.C. Macomb departed Detroit aboard a steamboat on June 8, 1821, accompanied by his wife, nine young children, and mother-in-law, disgorging at Georgetown twelve days later. His seven-year service as Chief Engineer would also prove highly satisfactory, as the Corps built many public roads and enhanced canal navigation throughout the nation, in addition to its military obligations. Macomb’s own personal life was clouded with tragedy when his wife died within their first year in the national capital, while giving birth to a daughter. Four years later, Macomb would marry the widow Harriet Balch Wilson in May 1826, daughter of a Presbyterian pastor in Georgetown.
When the U.S. Army commander, Maj.-Gen. Jacob Brown, died in February 1828, a dispute arose between Brig. Gens. Winfield Scott and Edmund P. Gaines as to who should succeed him. Macomb was technically next in seniority, yet had accepted demotion from senior Brigadier upon assuming command over the Engineer Department. Pres. John Quincy Adams opted to recommend Macomb’s direct promotion to the vacant rank of Major-General, and thus become overall commander of the U.S. Army, which motion was approved by a large majority in the U.S. Senate. Resentment against his elevation would nonetheless linger in military circles, yet Macomb remained in that position for the next thirteen years, until his death at Washington on June 25, 1841.
Ripley, Roswell Sabin (1823-1887)
Northern-born officer who retired from the U.S. Army to become a prosperous resident of South Carolina, and as a Lieutenant-Colonel of its militia refurbished Moultrie’s defenses, and directed its bombardment of Fort Sumter.
Birth & Early Army Career (1823-1852)
Ripley had been born on March 14, 1823, in a house which still stands at 623 High Street in Worthington, Ohio, a small village in Franklin County, not too far from the city of Columbus. He was the second child and only son of Christopher Ripley — himself a volunteer militia Captain during the War of 1812 — and his wife Julia (née Caulkins). The elder Ripley had already been residing in Worthington on business, when he had purchased this brick combined store and residence for $1,250 just a month prior to his wife giving birth. The infant was named for his maternal grandfather, the patriot Roswell Caulkins, who had served at Valley Forge and Monmouth, and it appears as if the child may have actually been baptized with the middle name of “Sabin,” although it would be often misspelled as “Sabine” throughout his lifetime and ever since.
At the age of four, Ripley’s family moved briefly to Massachusetts, then relocated to his father’s new business in Ogdensburg, New York. But C. Ripley & Company had failed by 1830, so that Roswell’s father temporarily worked as a purchasing agent for the Canadian firm of Molson, Davies, and Company of Montreal. The senior Ripley eventually sold his Worthington property at a loss in 1834 for $1,100, and along with two associates invested heavily in a large tract of land from “Macomb’s Purchase” in 1836, but was ruined when they could not subsequently sell off enough plots to recoup their original investment.
Three years afterward, sixteen-year-old Roswell received an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1839. The U.S. Army Register recorded two years later, how the second-year pupil had stood fifth in his class and excelled in “Mathematics, French, Drawing, and English Grammar” during the June 1841 examinations, and in fact the teenage Ripley proved an excellent cadet throughout his tenure at West Point, never receiving more than 55 demerits during any single term. He graduated on June 30, 1843, seventh out of a class of 39 cadets, although reputedly not popular among his classmates, who included such famous future generals as Ulysses S. Grant, William S. Rosencrans, and Samuel G. French.
Ripley received a brevet commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment on July 1, 1843, and after the traditional three-months’ home-leave was posted to peacetime garrison-duty: first at Fort McHenry outside Baltimore, from the autumn of 1843 into 1844; then at Fort Johnston in North Carolina for part of 1844; as well as at the Augusta Arsenal from 1844 into that following autumn. He furthermore served briefly as an artillery instructor at West Point from September 20, 1845 to January 17, 1846.
Mexican War & Resignation (1846-1853)
When the war with Mexico erupted, Ripley was initially assigned in July 1846 to the staff of Gen. Zachary Taylor, and saw action at the Battle of Monterrey that same September. But after offensive operations in northern Mexico subsided into uneventful occupation, Ripley’s unit was among many transferred over early next year to the command of Gen. Winfield Scott, so that the 24-year-old Second Lieutenant took part in his seaborne disembarkation to seize the port of Veracruz, and push into Central Mexico to threaten the enemy capital. Ripley was officially promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant in the regular Army as of March 3, 1847, and placed under the orders of the politician-soldier Brig. Gen. of Volunteers Gideon J. Pillow.
Ripley was brevetted a Captain for his “gallant and meritorious conduct in the Battle of Cerro Gordo” on April 18, 1847, and made a brevet Major for his heroism in the assault against Chapultepec Castle on September 13, 1847, immediately prior to the fall of Mexico City. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, he returned home and his company may have been one of two assigned to garrison-duty at Fort Moultrie by late October 1848, although Ripley obtained leave to swiftly write an excellent two-volume, 1,200-page History of the Mexican War, which was published in New York City by Harper & Brothers in 1849.
That same year, he furthermore saw a bit more action in the Second Seminole War: the Congressional Edition included on Pages 57-59, a couple of letters written on August 9 and 12, 1849 by “Brevet Major R. S. Ripley, 2d Art.,” after being dispatched from St. Augustine’s Fort Marion with a body of troops to investigate an attack against the new American settlement on the Indian River. Ripley’s official visit on February 12, 1851 to Washington, D.C., was also noted in The United States Postal Guide and Official Advertiser (Vol. I, Number 9, Page 264). His father died on September 17th of that same year, and “brevet Maj. R. S. Ripley” was once again mentioned as having visited Washington on January 15 and 23, 1852.
By this time, the 29-year-old Ripley was once more stationed at Moultrie, and began actively courting the wealthy 28-year-old widow Alicia Middleton, who came from an influential Charlestonian family and had been the wife of the diplomat Dr. William Alexander Sparks of Society Hill, deceased three years previously while serving as U.S. Consul at Venice, Italy. The novelist William Gilmore Simms, who was vacationing on Sullivan’s Island during that same summer, wrote the following account in a letter dated August 18, 1852:
A friend, Major Ripley, has had quite an adventure on the island. Gen. [William E.] Martin told me yesterday that R. had been for some time vigorously addressing the widow Sparks. He brought the affair to an unfortunate finish a few days ago, and got her rejection. In his rage at this result, he bolted downstairs, & not permitted to give the lady kick for kick, he either employed his boots, or threatened to do so, on the breech of the barkeeper, who has had him arrested by a magistrate’s warrant & brought to town. The magistrate issuing the warrant (Axson) being his guest of the preceding day.
Ripley nonetheless persisted in his courtship and on December 22, 1852, married Alicia Middleton in Chatham, Georgia. Three months after his wedding, Ripley officially resigned his commission as brevet Major and First Lieutenant of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment, effective March 31, 1853, so as to enter into civilian life. His wife already had a five-year-old daughter, Marie Alice Sparks, and another girl would be born to the newlywed couple on November 1, 1853, being named Alicia Ripley.
Arms Merchant (1853-1860)
Launching into his private career, Ripley and Charles W. Brush became partners in September 1853 of Charles G. Baylor’s brand-new Daily American Times newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, which openly advocated free trade for Southern states. But the two partners quickly withdrew from this failing enterprise by March 1854, and Ripley would henceforth turn to brokering international arms-sales, where his military experience and contacts proved to be much more useful assets — in particular the fact that his Connecticut-born uncle, 59-year-old Maj. James Wolfe Ripley, was still a highly-placed officer in the U.S. Army Ordnance Department.
With the Crimean War about to enter into its second year, Ripley travelled to Europe as a representative of the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut. The English newspaper Northern Times noted among its “Miscellaneous Passenger Lists,” how Ripley had arrived in the Mersey on the evening of January 9, 1855 aboard the U.S. mail steamer Pacific, having departed New York on December 28th. He was to be humorously lampooned in that same year’s January-June edition of Punch magazine (Vol. XXVIII, Pages 107-108), as a “Gaunt Stranger” who gives a brisk demonstration of his American carbine in the very waiting-rooms of the government offices at Whitehall.
Ripley also secured contracts for English manufacturers in the United States. Next year, among other business dealings, he proposed the sale of 100 English-made .36-caliber Adams revolvers at $18 apiece to the U.S. Ordnance Department, which was accepted by June 17, 1856. These initial guns were manufactured in England and duly delivered to the New York Arsenal by March 7, 1857, after which a second order for 500 more revolvers was placed, this time to be manufactured by the Massachusetts Arms Company.
And as secessionist sentiment rose in the South, Ripley also sought to use his professional experience in support of his adoptive state. On March 3, 1860, he wrote to Gov. William H. Gist of South Carolina:
My attention has lately been called to the subject of the armament of the Militia and Volunteers of the Southern States, by several gentlemen holding military office ... one problem is ... the time required for properly manufacturing arms, after the required quantities are designated, no matter where the work is to be executed. Another, and a greater, is the almost entire absence of persons having experience or knowledge in that branch of industry in the South.
Ripley therefore proposed the establishment of an armory through a joint subscription of funds from South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, to manufacture about 8,000-12,000 weapons per year. Favorable replies were received within a few weeks from all three officials, yet no funds were ever committed.
Ripley continued to press his plan, though, until he finally wrote to Governor Gist on November 7, 1860 from the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia (where he had gone to arrange weapon-purchases):
Good arms are scarce in this country outside of the National Arsenals, and for a rush we should have to go abroad. France will do as a market, but the arms are not so good as English or others. Meantime, there are about 14,000 stand [altered] at Charleston. They are serviceable weapons, though not good, and should be looked to, that they are not taken from the State. Lincoln is elected beyond a doubt, and I suppose the matter will soon be settled.
He added that he would be returning to South Carolina soon, and suggested that “no overt act” be taken until the President-elect was actually inaugurated next year.
Early on the morning of December 27, 1860, a fellow arms-salesman named Capt. Amos H. Colt was surprised to have Ripley bang on his door in the Charleston Hotel, and loudly announce the news of Major Anderson’s abrupt evacuation of Moultrie “with the words: ‘By God, Bob’s got ‘em now! He’s in Sumter, and all hell can’t get him out!’” The English war-correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn was introduced to “Major Ripley” (as he still styled himself) for the first time that same morning in the hotel lobby, and recorded on Page 171 [modern digital-number 187] of Volume 14 of his personal diaries, how Ripley had:
… gossiped with me for half-an-hour about it [the evacuation]. He was a sturdy, obese, bearded man, an ex-U.S. Artillery officer; had served in Mexico and written a history of that war, published by the Harpers. At present, a soldier of fortune, he had come to Charleston in search of office on the side of the Carolinians. He chuckled a good deal about the movement of “Bob” Anderson, whom he knew perfectly well, and talked of the Carolina volunteer soldiery with much of that short-sighted military contempt which “regulars” ordinarily profess for militia.
He had been in England during the Russian war [i.e., Crimean War], as an agent for Sharps rifles; was indeed the “Gaunt Stranger” introduced in an amusing “Punch” drama entitled “Under Consideration” by Tom Taylor, which I remembered perfectly well.
Shortly thereafter, the newly-installed Governor of South Carolina, Francis W. Pickens, asked Ripley — as a respected military advisor and armaments specialist — to survey the sabotage left behind at Moultrie, so that he arrived at that occupied fort on December 31, 1860 to find an artillerist’s nightmare. Eleven heavy guns lay dismounted on its southwestern terreplein, their carriages burnt to ashes, and the entire fort in a complete state of disarray. It was incapable of mounting any kind of effective defense, should the Federal government launch an effort to relieve Sumter.
Fort Moultrie Command (1861)
Ripley immediately set about making repairs, as best he could with the limited equipment and untrained personnel available to him. A newspaper dispatch from Charleston dated January 3, 1861, stated that “Major Ripley commands the battery at Fort Moultrie,” although the state’s military forces were still in the process of being formally organized. When the hired steamer Star of the West tried to slip up the Main Channel six days later out of the open ocean, approaching the harbor-entrance at dawn on January 9, 1861, with the intent of reinforcing and resupplying the Union garrison now isolated within Fort Sumter, Ripley allowed his eager young gunners to briefly join the artillery salvoes being fired from the Morris Island battery, although he knew that even Moultrie’s largest Columbiads were so far out of range that only a few rounds could be loosed off and fell well short, before this vessel reversed course and disappeared.
Gunn, the English correspondent — who was working on behalf of the Illustrated London News, as well as secretly for a couple of Northern newspapers — recorded his impressions of Ripley’s command a couple of days later, when he took the eleven o’clock ferry across from Charleston to Sullivan’s Island on January 11, 1861, then walked up to the fort’s main gates and:
… sent in a penciled request for admission to Major Ripley, who came to the entrance-port in a hearty manner, and invited me in. He was in private clothes and felt hat, and conversed with me on the ramparts looking toward Fort Sumter. The interior of Moultrie is described in my letter [later smuggled out of Charleston to be published anonymously in a New York newspaper], as minutely as I thought prudent. There were but eleven cannon spiked and dismantled by Anderson; I committed the error purposely, not to seem too particular, as Ripley told me the number.
I asked him whether I might make a sketch of the interior “for the Illustrated London News” — he acquiesced, if I would promise not to send it to any Northern picture-paper, which of course, I readily could do.
I inquired what he could do in the defensive way in Moultrie. “Do? Oh, a good deal, if that fellow there” — pointing to Fort Sumter — “don’t prevent us.”
I asked if he thought Moultrie could be held, if Sumter opened fire upon it. “Perhaps a couple of hours,” said Ripley, “and he may blow us to Hell in half that time!”
He talked more freely then than he did afterwards, speaking in a hearty military tone about Bob Anderson, and in some degree discussing the matter as if it were a joke. Ripley impressed me as a perfect soldier-of-fortune with some private pique against the U.S. government, disliking the Republican Party, but little disposed to pooh-pooh the unmilitary indefiniteness of the secessionists. I had that day’s Mercury [newspaper], and gave it to him. Asking about the young fellows who were in the fort, he said they were “as green as grass, but they had pluck enough, and would fight like hell!”
They were greatly excited during the firing on the Star of the West, and must needs entreat him to let them blaze away with a cannon, too, though they could do no possible mischief, and he and they fully expected that Anderson would open fire upon them from Fort Sumter in retaliation. There was a story about this in, I think, the paper I had given Ripley, stating that he had consented with the remark: “You’ll all be in Hell in a minute!”
“I didn’t say that!” he told me with a chuckle.
He wouldn’t have let “that other fellow,” meaning W[illiam] Waud [another English-born correspondent, openly working for a Northern publication], into the fort to sketch for Frank Leslie’s [Illustrated Newspaper]. He left me to talk to an elderly officer, when I strolled about at my leisure. On the verge of the ramparts, looking toward Sumter, a sentinel — a very young fellow — challenged my advance, but an intimation that I had just parted from Ripley afforded me an unobstructed passage. Half an hour satisfied my curiosity. I interchanged a remark or two with a raw lad of eighteen or twenty from New Orleans, who wore the Louisianan secession badge, the button in the center displaying a pelican feeding her young.
That very next day, after Anderson had formally rejected a demand from the South Carolina representatives Judge Andrew G. McGrath and David F. Jameson to vacate his stronghold, Ripley began deploying work-crews of black slaves on loan from their masters to commence gathering and shifting materials, so as to erect “high and solid merlons, formed of timber, sand, and earth” between all the guns on Moultrie’s southwest face that aimed at Sumter. An inspection on Sunday, January 13, 1861 by General Jameson and the engineer Col. James H. Trapier, found that all but three of Moultrie’s Columbiads had been unspiked and remounted, and that Ripley’s defensive work was in full swing. (The secessionist firebrand Edmund Ruffin, who was among these visitors that Sunday, even filled a few wheelbarrows himself with a shovel, joking that it allowed him “to commit a little treason to the northern government.”)
The correspondent Gunn ran into Ripley again one week later at 8:00 p.m. on the evening of Sunday, January 20, 1861, while dining at the Charleston Hotel (ibid., p. 77, modern digital 87), and once more four days afterwards, noting in his diary:
In going downtown, I met Ripley, with a great roll of bills in his hand; probably his pay, for there had been talk of his quitting Charleston for Pensacola (though he did not do so), and a paragraph to that effect in the Courier.
The mention in that day’s edition of the Courier had read: “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.” That same afternoon of January 24, 1861, Gunn took Ripley to the studio of George S. Cook, to sit for a portrait.
The Federal officers were all the while observing Ripley’s military labors from their refuge in Fort Sumter, and noted how he had erected additional defenses and remounted most of Moultrie’s sabotaged pieces by January 27, 1861. Three days later, a newspaper correspondent confirmed that Moultrie’s last two guns were about to be reinstalled, and went on to comment:
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.
Ripley’s expectations of being rewarded by receiving high rank in South Carolinian service, though — commensurate to his status as a former professional U.S. Army officer — were to be disappointed. The State legislature had passed an act on January 28, 1861, which authorized the creation of a force of regular troops, with enlistments extending for three years: 960 men in total, who were to be organized into an infantry regiment, artillery battalion, and cavalry squadron under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Robert G. M. Dunovant. Officers were to be appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the State Senate, so that on February 6, 1861, Ripley was officially confirmed in command of the newly-created Artillery Battalion, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
He was not inclined to take orders from others, however, especially less-experienced men or political appointees, and quick to find fault. When the engineering work being done around Moultrie failed to meet with his approval, he took matters into his own hands, provoking an angry riposte from Maj. Walter Gwynn, Chief of the South Carolina Engineer corps, on February 1, 1861. After a battalion of the First South Carolina Volunteer Regiment was removed from Ripley’s command and transferred over to Morris Island, he wrote to the newly-arrived Beauregard on March 5, 1861, complaining that he had been left with “but 171 [men] total, to man 15 guns on the channel, requiring 75; 11 guns on the Sumter battery, 55; 4 guns on the oblique battery, 20, and 40 men for the mortar battery, requiring 190 at least, to say nothing of guard duty at the fort,” and so requested that another unit be sent as reinforcement. And when directed that very next day to transfer two of Moultrie’s 32-pounders into a new shore-battery which was being created along the shoreline of Maffitt’s Channel, he replied that he lacked a gin or sufficient men for this task.
Ripley also maintained a literary output throughout this period, for ten days later, the March 16, 1861 edition of the Charleston Mercury newspaper included the following notice:
The title of a manual for the use of siege and garrison guns, printed for, and used by, the late United States Army. In these days of and rumors of wars, such a book has become a necessity to all military men. As the work is not for sale North or South, our neighbors, EVANS & COGSWELL, No. 3 Broad Street, are now reprinting it, under the supervision of officers of the artillery of this State, with an amendment to the Manual of the Columbiads as made by Lieutenant Colonel R. S. RIPLEY, of the 1st Artillery, S. C. A. We would suggest that in order to secure copies of this useful book, and early call had better be made on Messrs. E. & C., No. 3 Broad Street, a limited edition being in the press.
But he also overcame many shortcomings, and trained his novice artillerymen in the intricacies of various gun-drills over that ensuing month. By the second week of April 1861, he had Moultrie’s nine pieces along its Southwest Angle fully restored and bearing on Sumter, along with the four-gun Oblique Battery and other heavy weaponry, manned by eager crews. Always a colorful character, it would later be reported that Ripley joked upon firing off his first round against the Federal stronghold at dawn of April 12, 1861, that it would ring “the breakfast bell for Major Anderson.”
As the exchanges of gunfire continued throughout that day, he sent a hastily-scrawled report to headquarters at 1:00 p.m.: “Damages so far trifling. Men in high spirits; obey orders like veterans. Lieut. Hallonquist’s Mortar battery and the Enfilading battery doing splendid service.” Next morning, he furthermore employed Moultrie’s hot-shot furnace to begin firing incendiary rounds as of 8:00 a.m., smoke eventually appearing out of Sumter. The anonymous correspondent Virginius would later report exuberantly:
Major Ripley worked at his guns himself the whole time, in his shirt sleeves. A ball passed by him and knocked off the chimney of his furnace, in which they heat balls. He called out to the man in attendance: "Is it hurt?"
"No, sir," was the reply. "Well, then, let her bile [sic: boil]."
It will later be reported that Ripley joked upon firing his first round, that it would ring “the breakfast bell for Major Anderson.” As the exchanges of gunfire continued throughout the day, he apparently sent a hastily-scrawled report to headquarters at 1:00 p.m.: “Damages so far trifling. Men in high spirits; obey orders like veterans. Lieut. Hallonquist’s Mortar battery and the Enfilading battery doing splendid service.” Next morning, he used Moultrie’s hot-shot furnace to begin firing incendiary rounds as of 8:00 a.m., and smoke eventually appeared curling out of Sumter.
Upon Anderson’s surrender, Ripley was honored by being put in command of this battered prize on April 14, 1861, bringing Capt. James H. Hallonquist’s Company B of the 1st South Carolina Artillery Battalion across with him from Sullivan’s Island as an occupation force, as well as the Palmetto Guards from Morris Island. Ripley was one of “the ranking officers of Engineers and Artillerists” who were subsequently assigned to assess its material condition, and spent the next several weeks supervising repairs so as to restore some of its defensive capabilities. He soon became disgruntled with this duty, though, and by the summer of 1861 was threatening to resign his commission altogether. Prominent citizens circulated petitions in Charleston, appealing for him to remain. Finally, on August 15, 1861 — by order of the Adjutant Inspector-General’s office in Richmond, Virginia — Ripley was promoted to Brigadier General in the Confederate Army, and six days afterward was assigned to command the Department of South Carolina and its coastal defences.
Ripley threw himself into this work, ordering Moultrie’s sea-face strengthened with banks of sand, and the masonry on all of Charleston’s harbor-forts reinforced. New batteries were erected on Cole’s Island at the mouth of the Stono River, to deter Federal warships and defend the outer-island approaches to Folly and Morris Islands. But the Confederate leadership late that same year consolidated command of all the coastlines of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida into one military department under the direction of Gen. Robert E. Lee. This new commander in turn subdivided South Carolina into five districts, so that as of early December 1861, Ripley was reduced to being in charge of only the Second Military District of South Carolina.
In the wake of the Union seizure that previous month of an advance foothold at Port Royal Sound, Ripley began ambitiously reinforcing far-flung perimeter defenses, while Lee preferred concentrating the defenders’ limited manpower and resources closer around Charleston. Ripley used large numbers of slave-laborers to expand and toughen its network of harbor fortifications and batteries, and even ingeniously employed timber caissons to position a fixed battery in the shallow waters between Castle Pinckney and Fort Johnson, which was to be named Fort Ripley in his honor. But by early next year, the intemperate General was openly questioning Lee’s strategic judgment, so that Governor Pickens wrote apologetically on January 7, 1862:
I fear the feeling of General Ripley towards General Lee may do injury to the public service. His habit is to say extreme things even before junior officers, and this is well calculated to do great injury to General Lee’s command. I do not think General Ripley means half what he says in his energetic way, but others construe it differently …
Lee was recalled to Richmond in early March 1862, to counter the threat being posed by an invading Federal army on the Peninsula in Virginia, and was replaced at Charleston by Maj.-Gen. John C. Pemberton — originally a Pennsylvanian, who had been promoted from command of South Carolina’s Fourth Military District. Ripley took a hostile view of his subordination to this former equal, and Pemberton provoked a public outcry when less than two weeks after assuming command, he ordered Ripley to “withdraw the guns from the batteries on Cole’s Island and to confine the defenses of the city Charleston by that approach, to James Island and the Stono River.” Governor Pickens and most Charlestonians were outraged by this plan to simply abandon their outlying defenses, and further alarmed when Ripley sought a transfer out of the department in disgust. On May 15, 1862, Lee wrote to Pickens that he saw no way of alleviating the dispute between both senior commanders:
… save the relieving of General Ripley in compliance with his request. I should regret to take this step, in as much as his ability and knowledge of affairs in Charleston Harbor would be very essential in time of an attack. As he seems to be dissatisfied, however, and not in harmony with those above and below him, it may be the best thing to gratify his wishes.
Nine days later, Ripley received orders to travel to Richmond for reassignment to the Army of Northern Virginia, departing South Carolina with a reputation as a competent, yet headstrong officer who engendered bad relationships with his fellow officers.
Confederate Service (1862-1865)
As commander of the Fifth Brigade (comprised of the 1st and 3rd North Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiments, as well as the 4th and 44th Georgia Volunteers), Ripley served in Maj.-Gen. D. H. Hill’s Division and as such participated in the confused Battle of Mechanicsville on June 26, 1862. His blundering attempts to lead a flanking maneuver around the Union left late that afternoon, after crossing the Chickahominy River, inflicted needless casualties and brought an end to the day on a note of Confederate failure. Not all the blame was Ripley’s, but his reputation as an infantry leader — already suspect — was further tarnished. (Ten days prior to this disappointment, a Captain of the 44th Georgia had written to his wife, describing Ripley as “a big, fat, whiskey-drinking loving man.”)
During Lee’s subsequent counter-invasion of Maryland, Ripley performed poorly again during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, and then was severely wounded in the neck three days later during the Battle of Antietam, although he quickly returned to the fight after receiving treatment for his injury.
He resumed command of the Charleston fortifications in 1863. The English Lt.-Col. Arthur Fremantle of Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards visited Charleston that spring on a three-month tour of the Confederacy, and described Ripley during an inspection of the Morris Island defenses in mid-June 1863 as being:
... a jovial character, very fond of the good things of this life, but it is said that he never allows this propensity to interfere with his military duties, in the performance of which he displays both zeal and talent. He has the reputation of being an excellent artillery officer, and although by birth a Northerner, he is a red-hot and indefatigable Rebel ... Nearly all the credit of the Charleston fortifications is due to him ... notwithstanding his northern birth and occasional rollicking habits, he is generally popular.
Ripley formed his famous “ring of fire” in the harbor which kept the Federals out of the city until almost the end of the war. In 1864, his Instructions for the Care and Drill of Heavy Artillery manual was reissued by Evans & Cogswell at Columbia, South Carolina.
Post-War Existence & Death (1866-1887)
The war having ended in defeat, Ripley helped marry his 18-year-old stepdaughter Alice Sparks to his former subordinate Alfred M. Rhett on August 14, 1866, then moved abroad with his wife and daughter Alicia to settle in England. Yet without any fixed source of income or occupation beyond his military expertise, contacts and knowledge of armaments, Ripley would often teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, prompting his wife and teenage daughter to leave him by 1868 so as to return to Charleston. A brief mention of his financial distress appeared in the pages of the April 3, 1869 edition of The Charleston Courier, followed by a terse announcement in the May 28, 1869 edition of the Charleston Daily News (Vol. VII, No. 1069):
A Confederate Bankrupt. London, May 25. General Ripley, formerly of the Confederate Army, has passed through bankruptcy. His liabilities are $37,000; assets $50,000.
It was rumored the following year that because of his repute as a defensive specialist, gained during his protracted resistance around Charleston Harbor, the ex-Confederate General was consulted by French officials for suggestions regarding the defense of Paris in the winter of 1870-1871, during the Franco-Prussian War. The September 22, 1870 edition of the Charleston Daily News (Vol. X, No. 1483) reprinted a brief telegraphic report, sent from Tours the previous day, stating that: “General R. S. Ripley, formerly of the Confederate Army, and who is now in Paris, has tendered his service to the Committe for Public Defense.” A private letter received two weeks later, written from London on September 19, 1870, added “that his office had been recently at Paris, and in conference with the National Committee of Defense, but he had returned to London.”
And five years afterward, a citizen of Brighton named J. R. Lee-Bellasyse would furthermore write to the American authorities and news-outlets such as the New York Times, to denounce how:
... in March 1872, when England had a difficulty with America about the “Alabama” claims, Gen. Ripley wrote a very long letter to our War Office, giving them all the information he possessed as regards the defenses of America, pointing out the best places to land troops, what support might be expected from the South, and sketching out a plan of our entire campaign[.]
This production of his was afterward printed in pamphlet form, without his name to it, for circulation among his friends; he favored me with one, also a letter cautioning me not to let “any Yanks get hold of it.”
In a more conventional vein, Ripley is known to have also submitted an extensive but well-written commentary — under the pen-name of “A General Officer of the Late Confederate Army” — to the editors of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in August 1874 (Vol. 116, Pages 211-230), criticizing the recently-published History of the Civil War in America by the French prince Comte de Paris. Then next January 1875, a former Confederate naval officer named Hunter Davidson wrote privately from London, mentioning how:
Gen. Ripley spent much of the day & dined with me yesterday. He says that he has just been appointed to the command of the northern defense of China & leaves shortly with his staff for his destination.
While awaiting final word, Ripley also sent to William Gaston — the newly-elected Democratic Governor of Massachusetts — a battle-flag of the 54th Volunteer Regiment, captured after that unit of African-American troops had been decimated during a failed assault against Fort Wagner [as depicted in the movie Glory]. In an accompanying letter, Ripley wrote that he had kept this flag until he could return it to a Democratic Governor, and expressed hopes as to reconciliation between North and South. But his gesture set off an angry debate within the state legislature, and while the item itself was received on March 31, 1875, that “body absolutely refused to insert the name of Gen. Ripley in the resolution accepting the flag.”
That same June 1875, a representative of Colt Arms reported another conversation with Ripley in which he confided that his China “appointment was not yet certain,” but added that once a decision was made, he hoped to travel to the Far East via the United States, purchasing weaponry along the way (including a Gatling gun). But Ripley’s Chinese confirmation never came through, so that he was forced to declare bankruptcy by December 14, 1875, the public notice appearing one week later on Page 6573 of The London Gazette and describing him as: “R. S. Ripley, late of 95 Gloucester Road, South Kensington, in the County of Middlesex, but now of the Royal Hotel, New Bridge Street, in the City of London, a bankrupt.” When the court actually heard his case at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on January 20, 1876, it was found that Ripley now had debts totaling £9,056 and no assets.
He nonetheless remained in England, publishing yet another excellent but unattributed article in the February 1877 edition of Blackwood’s on “The Situation in America” (Vol. CXXI, January-June 1877, Pages 196-220). He did not return to the United States until seven years later, after the election of Grover Cleveland in November 1884 — the first Democratic Presidential victor in 28 years. Ripley seems to have initially visited Charleston, as The Watchman and Southron newspaper of Sumter, South Carolina, reported on the front page of its May 19, 1885 edition, how Ripley had given an entertaining talk there the previous day, about some minor incidents related to the shelling of Fort Sumter two-dozen years earlier. But long estranged from his wife, he lived apart from his family, and apparently never saw his daughter again.
Instead he travelled to New York City, where he resided in the New York Hotel for the next couple of years before suddenly dying of a massive stroke on a Tuesday morning, March 29, 1887, less than two weeks after his 64th birthday. It was said that in his dying moments, he asked to be buried in Charleston. His body was embalmed and transported there, to receive a hero’s funeral at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and interment in Magnolia Cemetery on April 3, 1887.
Sherman, William Tecumseh (1820-1891)
U.S. Artillery officer who was stationed at Fort Moultrie for almost four years early during his career, then later became the Union commander who would burn a destructive swathe through South Carolina.
Birth & Education (1820-1840)
Born on February 8, 1820 in Lancaster, near the shores of the Hocking River in Fairfield County, Ohio, his father Charles Robert Sherman — a successful Connecticut-born lawyer and part-time militia Major — allegedly chose to have him baptized as “William Tecumseh” because of a “fancy” which he had taken for that great Shawnee war-chieftain. Thus, Charles Sherman’s third son and sixth child would be called “Cump” by both family and friends throughout his lifetime.
William’s father petitioned to fill a vacancy as a circuit-judge for Ohio’s Supreme Court in July 1821, being appointed to this position two years later. However, he fell ill unexpectedly almost eight years later while presiding in the town of Lebanon and died there on June 24, 1829, leaving his widow Mary Hoyt Sherman with eleven children and no means of support. Nine-year-old William was sent to live with his father’s friend and fellow-attorney, Thomas Ewing, who next year was elected to the United States Senate on the Whig ticket. Toward the end of his single term in office as a Senator, Ewing secured an appointment for 16-year-old William in April 1836 to attend the U. S. Military Academy at West Point.
Sherman never rose above the rank of cadet Private during his four years at that institution, and accumulated many demerits, explaining years later in his Memoirs how “neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office, and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these.” Yet he was well-liked by many contemporary classmates such as George H. Thomas and William Rosencrans (future Union Generals), the latter recalling Sherman as “one of the brightest and most popular fellows” and “a bright-eyed, red-headed fellow, who was always prepared for a lark of any kind.” And being intellectually gifted, Sherman also excelled in the classroom, and would have graduated fourth in his class in June 1840, except that his numerous demerits dropped him down to sixth out of 43 cadets.
Service in Florida (1840-1842)
Commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery Regiment as of July 1, 1840, Sherman enjoyed the traditional three months’ home-leave before joining a company of recruits at Governor’s Island in New York Harbor late that same September 1840, and sailing to Savannah to march overland to St. Augustine, Florida. From there, Sherman continued on to Fort Pierce on the Indian River to join his regular unit: Company A of the 3rd Artillery. He participated in patrols against elusive Seminole bands, and even escorted the war-chief Coacoochee or “Wild Cat” on May 1, 1841 into the fort for a parley with Maj. Thomas Childs. After promising to gather his followers to be transplanted from Florida, Coacoochee was seized on Childs’s orders during a subsequent visit one month later, and exiled in chains.
For his part in these actions, Sherman won promotion to First Lieutenant on November 30, 1841, and was sent to join Company G of the 3rd Artillery as a junior officer, arriving at Picolata near Saint Augustine just before Christmas. With the unpopular Second Seminole War at last winding down, his unit was rotated out in February 1842, and reassigned to vacant and decrepit Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. Company G reached this lonely outpost next month, Sherman relieving the boredom of two months’ garrison-duty by fishing and boating.
Fort Moultrie Posting (1842-1846)
His company was one of two subsequently selected to accompany the 3rd Artillery’s Lt.-Col. William Gates in reoccupying Fort Moultrie in late June 1842, which had just undergone extensive repairs and refurbishment. It would prove to be Sherman’s home for the next four years, and its proximity to Charleston provided a welcome relief from the Florida swamps or desolate Fort Morgan. Decades later, Sherman would recollect how: “Our life there [Moultrie] was of strict garrison duty, with plenty of leisure for hunting and social entertainments.” More of his impressions and remembrances of the fort can be read under “Written Descriptions and Observations.”
Because of his engaging personality and close connection to the politically-prominent Ewing family, Sherman was given a warm reception by South Carolinian society, noting how: “We soon formed many and most pleasant acquaintances in the city of Charleston; and it so happened that many of the families resided at Sullivan’s Island in the summer season, where we could reciprocate the hospitalities extended to us in the winter.”
Next spring, Sherman told his younger brother John in a letter dated May 23, 1843: “During the past winter, I have been at North Carolina twice, at Savannah once, and at Charleston some hundred times.” Having completed a year of duty at Moultrie, Sherman was granted four months’ leave in the summer of 1843 to return to Lancaster, during which visit he “became engaged to Miss Ellen Ewing, the accomplished daughter of his guardian, and the friend and companion of his school-days” (although Sherman would not actually write to obtain Thomas Ewing’s consent until March 5, 1844). His leave having expired, Sherman chose to return to Fort Moultrie via the more challenging Mississippi River-route of Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis down to New Orleans, then across Lake Pontchartrain to Mobile, Montgomery, and through Georgia to Savannah. Having departed Ohio on November 16, 1843, he informed his brother in another letter how:
At last, on the 27th of December , after an absence of five months and two days, I stood once more in my old quarters at Ft. Moultrie. Since my return, the weather has been so bright and delightful, that I have almost renounced all allegiance to Ohio, although it contains all whom I love and regard as friends. I have been so busy of late that I have not even been to Charleston to see my old acquaintances, and could only steal time the other day to accept an invitation of some planters on an adjacent island to participate in a fox hunt, and the consequent dinner and frolic.
Six weeks later, Sherman received orders from Washington to assist Col. Sylvester Churchill, Inspector-General of the U.S. Army, in conducting a board of inquiry at Marietta which was deciding government compensation for mounts lost by Georgia and Alabama militiamen during the recent fighting against the Seminoles. After first concluding his role in an already on-going court-martial at Moultrie, Sherman joined Churchill by February 17, 1844. After six weeks spent at Marietta and another two months at Bellefonte, Alabama, Sherman regained Moultrie and wrote to his legally-trained brother on June 12, 1844:
Since my return, I have not been running about in the city [Charleston] or [Sullivan’s] island as heretofore, but have endeavored to interest myself in Blackstone, which, with the assistance of Bouvier’s Dictionary, I find no difficulty in understanding. I have read all four volumes, Starkie on Evidence, and other books, semi-legal and semi-historical, and would be obliged to you if you would give me a list of such books as you were required to read, not including your local or State law. I intend to read the second and third volumes of Blackstone again, also Kent’s Commentaries, which seem, as far as I am capable of judging, to be the basis of the common-law practice. This course of study I have adopted, from feeling the want of it in the duties to which I was lately assigned.
Shortly after resuming his Moultrie duties, a dispute arose between certain officers of Company B of the 3rd Artillery, which that autumn of 1844 was garrisoning the U.S. Arsenal at Augusta, Georgia. Sherman was dispatched to resolve their issues, restoring good relations by transferring several to new postings.
Resuming his duties at Moultrie, Sherman was hunting deer early in 1845 with his fellow Lt. John F. Reynolds of the 3rd Artillery, on their civilian friend James Poyas’s plantation — about fifty miles up the Cooper River — when Sherman’s horse fell and he painfully dislocated his right shoulder. As a result, he was once again granted leave to visit Lancaster to help speed his recovery, departing Moultrie on January 25, 1845 and returning into Charleston aboard the ship Sullivan by March 9th of that same year. Texas being about to be annexed into the United States, a U.S. military build-up commenced in Louisiana that summer, to counter any opposition from Mexico. Companies and officers began departing Moultrie for the Gulf Coast as part of these preparations, but Sherman was not selected. By early 1846, his company commander was Capt. Robert Anderson, who would later abandon Moultrie in order to defend Fort Sumter against Confederate seizure.
Mexican War & Resignation (1846-1860 )
When the Mexican War finally erupted in May 1846, Sherman had the misfortune to have been detached at the end of that previous month on routinely-rotated “recruiting service” at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so missed the departure of his own company from Moultrie. After a month of pleading for an active assignment, he was transferred to Company F of the 3rd Artillery Regiment on June 29, 1846, hastening directly to New York City so as to sail from Governor’s Island with this unit by July 14th aboard the converted sloop USS Lexington, bound around Cape Horn for California. The ensuing 198-day voyage included layovers at Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso, Chile, before this expedition eventually disembarked at Yerba Buena (whose name was officially changed into San Francisco two days later).
No fighting occurred in California, though, so that he had little chance of distinguishing himself. Sherman served as acting Assistant Adjutant-General under Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny, and accompanied his successor as military governor of California — Col. Richard B. Mason — in the inspection that confirmed the discovery of gold in 1848, thereby helping accelerate the Gold Rush. Yet Sherman returned to Washington, D. C., two years later, still only a First Lieutenant, to marry 25-year-old Eleanor “Ellen” Boyle Ewing in her father’s house on May 1, 1850, in a ceremony attended by Pres. Zachary Taylor and other luminaries, as the bride’s father was then serving in the Cabinet as the first U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Through his influence, Sherman was furthermore appointed a “commissary of subsistence” with the temporary rank of Captain, and assigned to the staff of the Military Department of the West at St. Louis, Missouri. In March 1851, he also received from the U.S. President, “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,” a brevet appointment as Captain — back-dated to May 30, 1848.
Yet disappointed by the diminished prospects of peacetime service, Sherman resigned his commission in the Army on September 6, 1853, to return to California as San Francisco branch-manager for the St. Louis bank of Lucas, Turner, and Company. Merely in order to reach his destination, Sherman survived two shipwrecks and floated through the Golden Gate on the overturned hull of a foundering lumber schooner. The city was in the grip of feverish speculation and turmoil, and he would later comment about this stressful period: “I can handle a hundred thousand men in battle, and take the City of the Sun, but am afraid to manage a lot in the swamp of San Francisco.” He eventually closed his branch-office in May 1857 and relocated to New York City on behalf of his employers, only to have their main bank fail that same year during the financial Panic of 1857.
After briefly attempting to set up a law practice in 1858 in Leavenworth, Kansas, Sherman next year accepted the position of first Superintendent of the proposed Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy, which was to be established at Alexandria (the precursor of modern Louisiana State University). Classes commenced at that institution by early January 1860, and the first examinations were held at the end of July. Sherman thereupon travelled to Washington and New York City on state business, and visited with his family in Lancaster, before regaining Alexandria that same October 1860. However, the election of Abraham Lincoln early next month began the secession of various Southern states, and Sherman especially resented the circumstances surrounding the seizure of the U.S. Arsenal at Baton Rouge by a large force of Louisiana militiamen under his old Moultrie colleague, Braxton Bragg, on January 10, 1861. Eight days later, Sherman resigned his position and quit Louisianan service altogether by the end of February.
Civil War Career & Death (1861- )
On 27 March, 1861, Sherman proceeded to St. Louis, Missouri, and early next month declined an offer from the Lincoln administration to take a position in the War Department, as a prelude to becoming Assistant Secretary of War. Even after hostilities had actually erupted with the bombardment of Fort Sumter that same April 12, 1861, he still hesitated to fully commit to military service, as most notions about quelling the secession struck him as unrealistic and ill-founded. Nonetheless, he finally offered himself for service in the regular Army in May 1861, and his younger brother (now Senator John Sherman of Ohio) and other political connections quickly maneuvered so as to get him reinstated and commissioned as Colonel of the 13th U.S. Infantry regiment, effective as of May 14, 1861.
But since the 13th was a new regiment yet to be raised, Sherman was first assigned to inspection-duty by Lt.-Gen. Winfield Scott between June 20-30, 1861, at the conclusion of which he assumed command of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the Army of Northeastern Virginia, comprised of three-month volunteers.