In addition to the contemporary prints and photographs of the antebellum fort which have survived, several written accounts have also been passed down in books and letters, describing everyday life and the conditions prevailing within Moultrie, as experienced by the very individuals who served or resided within its walls prior to the Civil War. The following excerpts constitute a brief, yet vivid sampling of these records.
William Tecumseh Sherman’s Recollections (1842-1846)
On Friday, June 24, 1842, Sherman arrived at the refurbished fort, already a veteran 22-year-old First Lieutenant. A junior officer in Company G of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment, until recently engaged in Florida’s Second Seminole War, he was part of a contingent which had been rotated out of decrepit Fort Morgan on the sun-baked outer fringes of Mobile Bay, so as to be sent to scenic Charleston Harbor and reoccupy Moultrie under Lt.-Col. William Gates. The fort on Sullivan’s Island had lain vacant and undergone three years of extensive repairs and reconstruction under Capt. Alexander H. Bowman of the Corps of Engineers, and was now fit to receive its full peacetime complement once again.
After eleven months of duty in his new base, Sherman would write a letter to his younger brother John in Ohio on May 23, 1843, describing his daily routine:
I'll try and give you an idea of how our days pass in a garrison like this. Here at Fort Moultrie we have about 250 soldiers, divided into four companies. These are quartered some inside the wall, some outside. All the unmarried officers, eight of us, live inside; all the married, five, outside. This being the headquarters of the regiment, we have the Colonel and his band of about fifteen instruments.
Every morning at daylight all get up at reveille, attend a drill, either as infantry or artillery, at sunrise; breakfast at seven, have a dress parade at eight, and half-an-hour after the new guard takes the place of the old one, a new officer relieving the old one. After that, each one kills time to suit himself, till reveille of next morning commences the new routine. Thus it is every fair day except Sunday, when we have an extra quantity of music, parade, and inspection in honor of the day, and to keep our men in superfine order at church.
Thus, you see that every day at nine o'clock and after, we [the off-duty officers] have nothing to do but amuse ourselves. Some read, some write, some loaf, and some go to the city [Charleston]. For the latter class, a barge is in attendance, going and coming. Although six miles from a city, we have all its advantages, whilst separated from its annoying noises, taxes, and expenses ...
Almost three years afterward, with two artillery companies having departed Moultrie to be deployed in Texas against an anticipated war with Mexico, Sherman would furthermore opine in another letter written on January 6, 1846:
There would be no difficulty in taking Charleston; our fort is weak and has only about 100 men; it is not ditched or strengthened in such a way as to defy an assault. A new fort is being built in the channel [Sumter] which when done, will be very strong, but its walls are as yet barely out of water.
Over the next couple of decades, the youthful Sherman would fight for the Union and soar high in Army rank, becoming a full Major-General in command of a vast force which had sown a path of destruction across the Deep South, when two of his staff officers — Col. Samuel M. Bowman (Sherman’s former lawyer in California) and Lt.-Col. Richard B. Irwin — compiled a history of their commander’s life, and published it in New York City in 1865 under the title of Sherman and His Campaigns: A Military Biography. On Page 16 of that work, the two authors had included the following recollection from their chieftain, about his antebellum posting:
Moultrieville, on Sullivan’s Island quite near the fort, was at that time a place of fashionable resort during the summer season for the wealthy families of Charleston and South Carolina generally, many of whom had temporary residences there, to which they removed on the approach of hot weather to escape from the malarious influences of the city and lower country, and enjoy the cool breezes and the sea-bathing. Officers of the army were at that time sought after and hospitably entertained by nearly all of the better classes of society in the South, and Lieutenant Sherman was thus, upon his arrival at Fort Moultrie, ushered into a life entirely new to him. During the summer [of 1842] he made many agreeable and some valuable acquaintances, which were cemented and extended during the following winter when he, in common with the other officers, was almost overwhelmed with invitations to accept the hospitalities of the citizens of Charleston to whom they had been attentive at the fort.
Hunting was always a favorite amusement with him, and while stationed at Fort Moultrie, he enjoyed frequent opportunities of indulging this taste. Thus, with boating and drum-fishing, were passed his leisure hours during the first year of his stay. In the fall of 1843, he availed himself of a four-months’ leave of absence to visit his home at Lancaster [Ohio], and while there became engaged to Miss Ellen Ewing, the accomplished daughter of his guardian, and the friend and companion of his school-days.
And twenty years after Bowman and Irwin’s biography had appeared, Sherman published his own two volumes of personal Memoirs, which included this description of Charleston Harbor and of Fort Moultrie during the mid-1840s, in his own words:
Farther down the bay, a point of the mainland reached the bay, where there was a group of houses called Mount Pleasant; and at the extremity of the bay, distant six miles, was Sullivan’s Island, presenting a smooth sand-beach to the sea, with the line of sand-hills or dunes thrown up by the waves and winds, and the usual backing of marsh and crooked salt-water channels.
At the shoulder of this island was Fort Moultrie, an irregular fort without ditch or counterscarp, with a brick scarp wall about twelve feet high, which could be scaled anywhere, and this was surmounted by an earth parapet capable of mounting about forty twenty-four and thirty-two pounder smoothbore iron guns. [Moultrie’s ten 8-inch Columbiads were not installed until 1859.] Inside the fort were three two-story brick barracks, sufficient to quarter the officers and men of two companies of artillery.
At sea was the usual “bar,” changing slightly from year to year, but generally the main ship-channel came from the south, parallel to Morris Island till it was well up to Fort Moultrie, where it curved, passing close to Fort Sumter and up to the wharves of the city, which were built mostly along the Cooper River front.
Gen. John Schofield’s Remembrance (1853)
After graduating seventh in his class of 52 West Point cadets and enjoying the traditional three months’ leave at his family home in Freeport, Illinois, John McAllister Schofield — the 21-year-old son of a Baptist missionary — set off that same autumn for his first posting in the U.S. Army. He would eventually rise to become a Union General fighting in the western theater during the Civil War, as well as a subordinate of Sherman, a post-war Superintendent of West Point, and a Lieutenant-General in command of the entire U.S. Army, before finally retiring in 1895.
Two years after his retirement from active duty, Schofield published his memoirs under the title of Forty-Six Years in the Army in New York City, which included the following excerpt about his initial few months of military service:
My first orders assigned me to duty at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, as brevet Second Lieutenant in the 2d Artillery. The steamer landed me at Charleston [on] September 29, 1853, the day I became twenty-two years of age. The next morning I found myself without money enough to pay my hotel bill and take me over to Sullivan’s Island, but pay was due me for September. Upon inquiry, I found that the paymaster was not in the city, but that he kept his public funds in the Bank of South Carolina. Being unacquainted with any of the good people of Charleston, the well-known rules of banks about identification seemed a serious obstacle. I presented my pay account at the bank, informing the cashier with a confident air that I was well aware of the fact that the Major’s money was there, but that the Major himself was out of town. The accomplished cashier, after scrutinizing me for a time, handed me the money. My older brother-officers at the fort had a good laugh at what they were pleased to call my “brass”; but I consoled myself with the reflection that I had found out that my face was good for something.
… I found only one officer on duty with my battery at Fort Moultrie, and he was awaiting my arrival so that he might go on leave. He turned over the command with a manifestation of confidence which surprised me at the time, but which was fully explained the next day. In the morning the First Sergeant reported to me, with the quarterly and monthly returns prepared for my signature, and made out more beautifully than anything in writing I had ever before seen, and explained to me in detail all the business affairs of the battery, as if he were reporting to an old Captain who had just returned from a long leave of absence. Next to General [Winfield] Scott and Colonel [Robert E.] Lee, with whom I had the honor of some acquaintance, I was quite sure there stood before me the finest-looking and most accomplished soldier in the United States Army. What a hard time young officers of the Army would sometimes have, but for the old sergeants!
… In September [sic: October 1853?] we had the usual artillery target practice, which was afterward recalled to my mind many times by the bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861, by the same guns I had used in practice, and at the same range. Then came the change of stations of troops, which took the Moultrie garrison to Florida, and some of the 1st Artillery to their place. For a time the fort was left without garrison [from November 18 to December 11, 1853], except a few officers who were awaiting the arrival of their regiment. I also was ordered to remain until I “got off my brevet” and was appointed “full Second” in the 1st Artillery. It had been a yellow-fever summer, and the cottages on Sullivan’s Island were even more fully occupied than usual, mostly by families of planters from the rice plantations of South Carolina. Hospitality was unbounded, and of the most charming character. Nothing I have experienced at home or in the great capitals of Europe has surpassed or dimmed the memory of that first introduction to Southern society.
In December, 1853, the order came announcing my appointment as Second Lieutenant, 1st Artillery, and directing me to join Battery D at Fort Capron, Indian River, Florida. A steamer took me to Palatka …
Abner Doubleday’s Assessment (Summer 1860)
Captain Doubleday arrived at Charleston with his Company E of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment aboard the steamer Gordon on June 16, 1858, to jointly constitute Moultrie’s new garrison along with Capt. Truman Seymour’s already-installed Company H, both serving under Lt.-Col. John L. Gardner. Doubleday took up residence as second-in-command in the Officers’ Quarters with his wife Mary, the only woman who would live within the confines of the peacetime fort. Gardner chose to live outside, in a fine big house directly opposite the Western Postern-Gate with his own family. All would remain on this posting until the secession crisis forced their evacuation in late 1860.
As tensions escalated throughout South Carolina, Doubleday and his wife became widely known as outspoken advocates of abolitionism and Republican resolve, and the doughty Captain would subsequently be lionized throughout the North for his role in the defense of doomed Fort Sumter in mid-April 1861. Writing his Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie in 1860-’61, a decade after the Civil War had concluded, Doubleday related his impressions of Moultrie’s poor material condition during that long-ago summer, laying special stress on the frailty of its defenses. The fort’s walls, he wrote:
… were but twelve feet high. They were old, weak, and so full of cracks that it was quite common to see soldiers climb to the top by means of the support these crevices afforded to their hands and feet. The constant action of the sea-breeze had drifted one immense heap of sand against the shore-front of the work, and another in the immediate vicinity. These sand-hills dominated the parapet, and made the fort untenable. Indeed, it was originally built by the engineers as a mere sea-battery, with just sufficient strength to prevent it from being taken by a coup de main. As an overpowering force of militia could always be summoned for its defense, it was supposed that no foreign army would ever attempt to besiege it. The contingency that the people of Charleston themselves might attack a fort intended for their own protection had never been anticipated.
Our force was pitifully small, even for a time of peace and for mere police purposes. It consisted of sixty-one enlisted men and seven officers, together with thirteen musicians of the regimental baud; whereas the work called for a war garrison of three hundred men.
Sergeant Chester’s Memories (Summer 1860)
Among the soldiers of Doubleday’s Company E of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment, a sergeant named James Chester would also write down his remembrances of his service at pre-war Moultrie, almost a quarter-century after being garrisoned at the fort. He began his composition in the early 1880’s by declaring that he had deliberately decided not to “read up and prepare a presentable story,” but rather to rely solely upon his memory, so as to recount his impressions all the more spontaneously. The following paragraphs constitute part of what he then recorded, complete with imprecise details:
It was my fortune to be present at the opening scenes of the grand drama of the American Civil War. There were but few of us on the Union side on that occasion, seventy-odd I believe, but to save my life I could not now tell exactly how many ... Fort Moultrie, where I was stationed, was a historic work. Its importance rested rather upon what it had been, than upon what it was. It was an enclosed work, bastioned on the land side. Its water battery consisted of eight or ten 8-inch Bomford Columbiads, mounted en barbette on wooden carriages. Its scarp was of brick masonry, and perhaps ten or twelve feet high. The land-front mounted 24-pounder guns and 8-inch howitzers. It was provided inside with barracks and quarters for two companies of artillery. The commandant’s quarters, hospital, commissary and quartermaster’s stores, and laundresses’ quarters were outside.
It was one of the regular defenses of Charleston harbor, and for that purpose was fairly effective; but as against a domestic enemy it was worthless. The sand had drifted against its scarp wall to such an extent that cows, tempted by the grass which grew on its slopes, had no difficulty in jumping in, and soldiers of convivial and owlish habits had no difficulty, even when too far gone to jump, in rolling over the rampart in time for reveille. The rebel leaders no doubt felt that they could walk into Fort Moultrie whenever they wanted to, in spite of the seventy-odd men which constituted its garrison.
The garrison consisted of two companies of the First Artillery and the regimental band. The companies were small, perhaps purposely kept so, numbering — if I remember rightly — about thirty men each. According to the organization, their strength should have been fifty-four [in each company], but yellow fever had played sad havoc among the men in 1858, and requisitions for recruits had remained unheeded. Hence the numerical weakness of the garrison.
A more ample excerpt from Sergeant Chester’s account can be found under “A Soldier’s Recollection.”
Dr. Wylie Crawford’s First Impressions (September 1860)
On Friday, September 7, 1860, Capt. Samuel W. Crawford — a 30-year-old Assistant Surgeon in the peacetime U.S. Army, who had just been recalled back East from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for routine “examination and promotion” by the Medical Department — was breakfasting with friends while enjoying some home-leave in Newport, Rhode Island, when he received an urgent telegraph from Washington directing him to proceed immediately to Moultrie so as to replace its deceased medical officer, Dr. Bernard M. Byrne. Travelling all day by train, Crawford reached Charleston that same night, and reported to the post commandant on Sullivan’s Island by Saturday morning. The young doctor would later record his first impressions of his new base, where he would remain for less than three highly-dramatic months:
… on the sandy beach of Sullivan’s Island and near the sea, stood Fort Moultrie, a low water battery built of brick, sixteen feet high, with one tier of guns en barbette, some bearing directly upon the channel that ran within short range of its walls. It enclosed an area of one and one-half acres. On its cramped parade were piles of balls and shells, and an old furnace for heating shot. [The furnace was actually quite new, having been rebuilt in February 1856.] In its rear or gorge, two stories high, were its sally-port, its guard-house, and its offices. On the left, of double stories, were the quarters for officers, and opposite were the barracks for the men.
Its name and its association were dear to every Carolinian. It stood near the site of the old palmetto fort where the troops of the State had repulsed the British fleet under Admiral Sir Peter Parker on the 28th of June, 1776. Bearing the name of one of her most distinguished sons, every child in South Carolina had spelled the story, and had grown up in the belief that that fort and its history were peculiarly his own inheritance.
Two companies of the First Regiment of Artillery, under the command of the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment, John L. Gardiner [sic: Gardner], with the regimental band, garrisoned the fort, which had been continuously occupied for many years. Its armament consisted of fifty-five guns of all calibers, including ten 8-inch Columbiads, eleven howitzers, thirty 24- and 32-pound guns, with four brass field-pieces. Its fire commanded all approaches except the rear, and a number of its guns concentrated upon a single point in the channel, by which every vessel was compelled to pass to enter the inner harbor.
Unprepared for an attack, it had in long years of disuse, fallen into a condition similar to Castle Pinckney. The winds had piled up the sands on [Moultrie’s] sea front to a level with and against its parapet, and communication was easy from all sides. Without a ditch, without defensive arrangements of any kind, it was an easy prey to any force that should choose to attack it. Some of its officers and men lived habitually outside of the work, and its hospital had long been established a short distance beyond the walls.
The sea winds had piled up long rows and hillocks of sand on all sides of it, and to the northward especially, and commanding the approach from the main part of the island. At a distance of 180 or 200 yards from the fort, a range of sand-hills had been formed, covered with a sparse, stunted vegetation, which completely commanded the parapet upon that side of the work, and which if occupied by riflemen, would greatly embarrass, if not effectually prevent, any service of its guns on that side.
To its defenseless condition, the attention of the Government had been earnestly called. As long before as the 18th of June, 1860, the acting Assistant Quartermaster of the post had called the attention of the General commanding the Department to the condition of the work, and had made a request that the sum of $500 might be sent to him for the purpose of removing the sand from the walls of the fort. He urged that if it was the intention “that the walls should fulfill at all the conditions for which they were built,” it was necessary to remove the sand.
“A child,” said he, “ten years old can easily come into the fort over the sand-banks, and the wall offers little or no obstacle.” He declared that the ease with which the walls could be gotten over, rendered the place more of a trap in which the garrison might be shot down from the parapet, than a means of defense. “It looked strange,” said he, “not to say ridiculous, that the only garrisoned fort in the harbor should be so much banked in with sand that the walls were in some places not a foot above the banks.”
Unfit for attack, incapable of resistance, Fort Moultrie presented an appearance anything but formidable, in the summer of 1860 …
Official Status, (Autumn 1860)
A few years after the conclusion of the Civil War, Henry B. Dawson — editor of the Historical Magazine of Morrisania or South Bronx, New York — set about tracking down the most precise and objective reports available from that conflict, so as to record them against a rising tide of personal reminiscences, interpretative works, or otherwise popularized accounts. One of his earliest efforts was to be the “Story of Fort Sumter,” a measured compilation and retelling of the Federal garrison’s evacuation of Fort Moultrie for more impregnable Sumter, which he published in the Third Series, Volume 1, Number 1 (January 1872), Pages 34-53 and Number 3 (March 1872), Pages 139-192 of his Historical Magazine.
Basing himself on official documents such as the “Annual Reports of the Engineer Department” dated November 8, 1859 and November 14, 1860, as well as “General Gillmore’s Report” in Professional Papers, Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., No. 16, Page 9, Dawson was able to summarize Fort Moultrie’s material condition as follows during the closing months of 1860, on Page 36 of his publication:
Its armament in the autumn of 1860, consisted of sixteen twenty-four-pounders, fourteen thirty-two-pounders, ten eight-inch Columbiads, five eight-inch seacoast howitzers, and seven field-pieces; and as the seat of a permanent garrison, it seems to have been completely finished, and in fair condition. It was occupied as the headquarters of that post, by Companies E and H, First Artillery, numbering in the aggregate sixty-six men, and the regimental band of nine musicians, the whole under the immediate command of Brevet-Colonel John L. Gardner, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment, who was the commander of that post; and having been carefully strengthened during the summer and autumn under the direction of Captain J. G. Foster of the Corps of Engineers, but very little was required at the time of which we write — November 1860 — to make it tolerably secure against any merely irregular force which might attack it.
And on Page 40 of this same issue, Dawson was able to add — based upon Supplement I of the “Manuscript Inspection Report” of November 11, 1860 — that when Maj. Robert Anderson arrived to assume command at Moultrie on November 21, 1860:
… he found in the Quartermaster’s hands of flour, bacon, and small stores, less than two months’ supply for his little command, and these were stored outside the walls of the fort in wooden buildings, and without a sentry to protect them from those in the immediate vicinity who might be disposed to pilfer or destroy them. For beef, the garrison was wholly dependent on the nearby village butcher; Charleston, as usual, afforded an uncertain market for the purchase of any article or provision, and the only funds which the Quartermaster possessed for the purchase of any necessary article, were deposited with the Assistant Treasurer of the United States, whose office was in the city.
The field-battery, which formed a portion of the reported armament of the fort, was parked at a distance from it, outside its walls and entirely uncared for — not even the watchful eye of a sentinel was detailed to afford an apology for its exposure — while a very important portion of the cartridges for small-arms were for a larger caliber than that of the muskets they were designed to serve; and the friction-tubes, which were as necessary whenever the armament of the fort was employed for any purpose, as percussion-caps were in the use of small-arms, were reported as absolutely worthless.
The above texts have been lightly altered, by amending some minor points of punctuation and spelling, so as to conform more closely with modern usage.
Crawford, by way of contrast, would recount the beleaguered stronghold’s defenses more succinctly, yet inaccurately in his own book, published decades afterward:
Its armament was complete. Its heavy battery numbered forty-five guns, including sixteen 24-pounders, nineteen [sic: fourteen] 32-pounders, and ten 8-inch Columbiads. In addition to these, there were one l0-inch seacoast mortar, four brass field-guns, and three howitzers of 12 and 24 pounds for flanking defense. There was a large supply of ammunition both for artillery and infantry, and with some exception, a complete service for the guns.
Report in the Charleston Mercury (December 13, 1860)
As South Carolina’s movement toward secession began to gain momentum after the Presidential election of November 1860, interest in expropriating all Federal installations in and around Charleston Harbor also heightened, much of this attention being directed against the main force garrisoning Fort Moultrie. A week before state-wide delegates were to reconvene in the city and renew their deliberations on seceding from the Union, a reporter from the Charleston Mercury visited the beleaguered Federal outpost, and published the following account in his newspaper’s Thursday edition on December 13, 1860:
… Until late in the past summer, the defenses of Fort Moultrie have remained in an unfinished condition; the sand of its beach, piled up by the wind against its south walls, had rendered them easily accessible almost by a single leap, and the empty guns were suffered to gaze out in harmless majesty upon the noble bay. A fortnight has worked a marvelous change.
Fort Moultrie is an enclosed water battery, having a front on its south or water side of about 300 feet, and a depth of about 240 feet. It is built with salient and reentering angles on all sides, and is admirably adapted for defense, either from the attack of a storming party or by regular approaches. The outer and inner walls are of brick, capped with stone and filled in with earth, making a solid wall 15 or 18 feet in thickness. The work now in progress consists in cleaning the sand from the walls of the fort; ditching it around the entire circumference and erecting a glacis; closing up the postern gates in the east and west walls, and instead cutting sally-ports which lead into strong out-works on the southeast and southwest angles, in which 12-pounder howitzer guns will be placed, enabling the garrison to sweep the ditch on three sides with grape and canister. The northwest angle of the fort has also been strengthened by a bastionette, to sustain the weight of a heavy gun which will command the main street of the island. The main entrance has also been better secured and a trap-door, two feet square, cut in the door for ingress and egress.
At this time, the height of the wall, from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the parapet, is 20 feet. The ditch is from 12 to 15 feet wide at the base, and 15 feet deep. The nature of the soil would not seem to admit of this depth being increased, quick-sand having been reached in many places. The work on the south side is nearly finished. The counterscarp is substantially built of plank, and spread with turf. The glacis is also finished. It is composed of sand, and covered with layers of loam and turf, all of which is kept firmly in place by the addition of sections of plank nailed to uprights sunk in the sand, and crossing each other at light angles — making squares of about 10 feet each. The purpose of the glacis, which is an inclined plane, is to expose an attacking party to the fire of the guns — which are so placed as to sweep it from the crest of the counterscarp to the edge of the beach.
On the north side, all the wooden gun-cases have been placed close together on the ramparts, apparently for the purpose of securing it against an escalade, but possibly as a screen for a battery of heavy guns. A good many men are engaged in clearing the ramparts of turf and earth, for the purpose of putting down a very ugly-looking arrangement, which consists of strips of plank 4 inches wide, 1 1/2 inches thick, and 6 or 8 feet long, sharpened at the point and nailed down so as to project about 3 feet horizontally from the top of the walls.
A noticeable fact in the bastionettes to which we have above alluded is the haste in which one of them has been built. The one completed is formed of solid masonry. In constructing the other, however, a framework of plank has been substituted. Against the inside of this wooden outwork, loose bricks have been placed. Both bastionettes are armed with a small carronade, and a howitzer pointed laterally so as to command the whole intervening moat by a crossfire.
In the hurried execution of these extensive improvements, a large force — about 170 men — are constantly engaged. Additions are daily made to this number, and the work of putting the post in the best possible condition for defense, is carried on with almost incredible vigor.
A few days ago, Colonel Gardiner [sic: Gardner], who for years had held the post of Commandant, and whose courtesy and bearing had won the friendship of all who knew him, was relieved in the command by Maj. Robert Anderson of Kentucky … The [garrison] consists of two Companies of Artillery. The companies, however, are not full, the two comprising, as we are informed, only about seventy men, including the Band. A short time ago, two additional companies were expected, but they have not come; and it is now positively stated that there will be, for the present at least, no reinforcement of the garrison.
While the working men are doing wonders on the outside, the soldiers within are by no means idle. Field pieces have been placed in position upon the green within the fort, and none of the expedients of military engineering have been neglected to make the position as strong as possible. It is said that the greatest vigilance is observed in every regulation at this time, and that the guns are regularly shotted every night. It is very certain that ingress is no longer an easy matter for an outsider, and the visitor who hopes to get in, must make up his mind to approach with all the caution, ceremony, and circumlocution with which the allies are advancing upon the Capital of the Celestial Empire.
Readers of the Mercury were reassured “that the Executive of the State is fully cognizant of all that is going on in relation to these forts, and that their honor and defense” were safe in Gov. Francis Pickens’ keeping. Four days later, this Mercury account was republished in the New York Times.
The text quoted here above comprises a substantial excerpt, and has been lightly edited so as to correct some minor points of punctuation and spelling, so as to conform more closely with modern usage.
John De Forest’s Observation (January 1861)
On the morning of Saturday, January 19, 1861, a civilian named John William De Forest returned into Charleston Harbor after an extended absence, as a passenger aboard the inbound steamer Columbia out of New York City. Familiar with its sea-approaches from previous visits, he noted how military preparations had altered the appearance of peacetime Moultrie, as his vessel slowly steamed past the distant fort on this occasion:
To the north was the long, low, gray Sullivan's Island, a repetition of [Morris Island], with the distinctions of higher sand-rolls, a village, a regular fort, and palmettos. We passed the huge brown Moultrie House, in summer a gay resort, at present a barrack; passed the hundred scattered cottages of the island, mostly untenanted now, and looking among the sand-drifts as if they had been washed ashore at random; passed the low walls of Fort Moultrie, once visibly yellow, but now almost hidden by the new glacis, and surmounted by piles of barrels and bags of sand, with here and there palmetto stockades as a casing for the improvised embrasures; passed its black guns, its solidly built, but rusty barracks, and its weather-worn palmetto flag waving from a temporary flag-staff.
Six days later, as De Forest departed Charleston once more aboard Columbia, the steamer steered too close inshore while attempting to exit via the narrow Maffitt’s Channel, and drifted aground on Sullivan’s Island. Its passengers were disembarked next day, January 26, 1861, to trudge overland so as to take the cross-harbor ferry back into the city from Moultrieville, affording De Forest the opportunity of making a personal tour through Fort Moultrie, fully manned by South Carolinian militia.
Federal Military Assessment, (February 1862)
As the Civil War moved into its first winter, Union strategists began considering new offensives for the coming year of 1862, including a possible seaborne descent on the outer shores of Charleston Harbor. In order to anticipate any defensive strong-points or pockets of Confederate resistance which might be encountered once a disembarkation force pushed inland, Lt.-Col. Daniel P. Woodbury of the U.S. Army’s Topographical Engineers was ordered to prepare a study of all known military and geographic obstacles, which he duly submitted on February 18, 1862 to Gen. J. G. Barnard, chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac.
Based upon peacetime reports and maps that were archived in Washington, D.C., Woodbury’s report included the following description of Fort Moultrie, detailing how it had been configured and armed during its final antebellum days, just prior to the outbreak of hostilities:
This is an irregular open barbette work, covering about 2 ½ acres of ground. It has three land fronts, and three water fronts. The steamboat landing at the point of the island and the road therefrom to the fort, are seen and commanded by a half-bastion front 213 feet long with nine guns, of which two are on the flank. The next land-front facing the cove north of the fort is a regular bastion 405 feet long, with one gun on each face and two on each flank, and room for more. The next front, directly opposed to our approaches, is a bastion front 244 feet long, with two guns on each flank, one on one face, two on the curtain, and room for three more.
Next, a water-front 121 feet long, with five guns.
Next, a water-front 251 feet long, with twelve guns.
Next, a water-front 173 feet long, with nine guns.
The guns are stated in accordance with the intended armament of the fort. The guns actually furnished by the United States before the fort was seized by the Confederates, were as follows: four 24-pounder howitzers; ten 8-inch Columbiads; five 8-inch seacoast howitzers; fourteen 32-pounders; sixteen 24-pounders.
Note how a total of 48 gun-positions are described as being available around its circuit, although only 40 heavy artillery-pieces had been allotted toward comprising Moultrie’s main armament.