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Title: Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 12, Revised 1962
Author: Barnes, Frank
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 12, Revised 1962" ***

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[Illustration: U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, March 3, 1849]

                     Stewart L. Udall, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_


This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service of the United States
Department of the Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing
Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
Washington 25, D. C. Price 25 cents.

                           _National Monument
                            South Carolina_

                            by Frank Barnes

[Illustration: Cannon on parapet]

                        WASHINGTON, D. C., 1952
                             (Revised 1962)

The National Park System, of which Fort Sumter National Monument is a
unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic
heritage of the United States for the benefit and enjoyment of its



  CONSTRUCTION OF FORT SUMTER                                           1
  THE STAR OF THE WEST                                                  8
  PREPARATIONS FOR WAR                                                  9
  THE WAR BEGINS—APRIL 12, 1861                                        15
  CHARLESTON AND THE FEDERAL BLOCKADE—1861-63                          24
  FEDERAL IRONCLADS ATTACK FORT SUMTER                                 24
  THE MORRIS ISLAND APPROACH TO FORT SUMTER                            26
  THE FIRST GREAT BOMBARDMENT OF FORT SUMTER                           28
  THE SMALL-BOAT ASSAULT                                               32
  THE SECOND GREAT BOMBARDMENT                                         33
  STALEMATE—SPRING OF 1864                                             35
  FORT SUMTER STRENGTHENED                                             36
  THE THIRD GREAT BOMBARDMENT                                          36
  SHERMAN’S MARCH FORCES SUMTER’S EVACUATION                           38
  MAJOR ANDERSON RETURNS                                               38
  FORT SUMTER AFTER 1865                                               40
  GUIDE TO THE AREA                                                    42
  ADMINISTRATION                                                       46
  RELATED AREAS                                                        46
  SUGGESTED READINGS                                                   47

[Illustration: The housetops in Charleston during the bombardment of
April 12-13, 1861. From Harper’s Weekly, May 4, 1861.]

[Illustration: Gunfire over Fort Sumter]

At 4:30 A. M., April 12, 1861, a mortar battery at Fort Johnson fired a
shell that burst directly over Fort Sumter. This was the signal for a
general bombardment by the Confederate batteries about Charleston
Harbor. For 34 hours, April 12 and 13, Fort Sumter was battered with
shot and shell. Then the Federal commander, Maj. Robert Anderson, agreed
to evacuate; and, on April 14, he and his small garrison departed with
the full honors of war. On the following day, President Abraham Lincoln
issued a call for 75,000 militia. The tragedy of the American Civil War
had begun.

Two years later, Fort Sumter, now a Confederate stronghold, became the
scene of a stubborn defense. From April 1863 to February 1865 its
garrison withstood a series of devastating bombardments and direct
attacks by Federal forces from land and sea. Fort Sumter was evacuated
only when Federal forces bypassed Charleston from the rear. At the end,
buttressed with sand and cotton as well as its own fallen brick and
masonry, it was stronger than ever militarily. And it had become a
symbol of resistance and courage for the entire South.

Both the “first shot” of April 1861 and the long siege of 1863-65 are
commemorated today by Fort Sumter National Monument.

                     _Construction of Fort Sumter_

  “... the character of the times particularly inculcates the lesson
  that, whether to prevent or repel danger, we ought not to be
  unprepared for it. This consideration will sufficiently recommend to
  Congress a liberal provision for the immediate extension and gradual
  completion of the works of defense, both fixed and floating, on our
  maritime frontier....”

  —President Madison to Congress,
     December 5, 1815.

[Illustration: The rock-ring of Fort Sumter’s foundation as it looked 4
years after operations were begun. Courtesy National Archives.]

The War of 1812 had shown the gross inadequacy of the coastal defenses
of the United States. The crowning indignity had been the burning of
Washington. Accordingly, Congress now answered President Madison’s call
by setting up a military Board of Engineers for Seacoast Fortifications
to devise a new system of national defense. Brig. Gen. Simon Bernard,
the famed military engineer of Napoleon, was commissioned in the Corps
of Engineers and assigned to the Board. Under his unofficial direction,
the Board began surveying the entire coast line of the United States in
1817. The South Atlantic coast, “especially regarded as less important,”
was not surveyed until 1821. One fortification report, covering the Gulf
coast and the Atlantic coast between Cape Hatteras and the St. Croix
River, had been submitted to Congress earlier that year. Thus, not till
the revised form of this report was submitted to Congress in 1826 was
the possibility that the “shoal opposite [Fort Moultrie] may be occupied
permanently” officially broached. This was the genesis of Fort Sumter.
If the location were feasible, reported the Board, “the fortification of
the harbor may be considered as an easy and simple problem.” With the
guns of the projected fort crossing fire with those of Fort Moultrie,
the commercial city of Charleston would be most effectively protected
against attack.

Plans for the new fort were drawn up in 1827 and adopted on December 5,
1828. In the course of that winter Lt. Henry Brewerton, Corps of
Engineers, assumed charge of the project and active operations were
commenced. Progress was slow, however, and as late as 1834 the new fort
was no more than a hollow pentagonal rock “mole” 2 feet above low water
and open at one side to permit supply ships to pass to the interior.
Meanwhile, it had been named Sumter in honor of Thomas Sumter, of South
Carolina, the “Gamecock” of the Revolution.

[Illustration: First-floor plan, Fort Sumter, March 1861. The Gorge
(designed for officers’ quarters) is at the base of the plan. Gun
casemates line the other four sides. The fort magazines were at either
extremity of the Gorge in both casemate tiers. Courtesy National

Late in the autumn of 1834 operations were suddenly suspended. Ownership
of the site was in question. In the preceding May, one William Laval,
resident of Charleston, had secured from the State a conveniently vague
grant to 870 acres of “land” in Charleston Harbor. In November, acting
under this grant, Laval notified the representative of the United States
Engineers at Fort Johnson of his claim to the site of Fort Sumter. In
the meantime, the South Carolina Legislature had become curious about
the operations in Charleston Harbor. Late in November, inquiry had been
instituted as to “whether the creation of an Island on a shoal in the
Channel, may not injuriously affect the navigation and commerce of
[Charleston] Harbor....” Reporting the following month, the Committee on
Federal Relations had made the ominous pronouncement that they had not
“been able to ascertain by what authority the Government have assumed to
erect the works alluded to....” Apparently under the impression that a
formal deed of cession to “land” ordinarily covered with water had not
been necessary, the Federal Government had commenced operations at the
mouth of Charleston Harbor without consulting the State of South

It was not until January 1841 that work was resumed on the site of Fort
Sumter. Laval’s claim was invalidated by the State attorney general
under act of the South Carolina Legislature, December 20, 1837. But the
harbor issue remained and was complicated still further by a memorial
presented to the legislature by James C. Holmes, Charleston lawyer, on
that same date. Not before November 22, 1841, was the Federal
Government’s title to 125 acres of harbor “land” recorded in the office
of the Secretary of State of South Carolina.

Under the skilful guidance of Capt. A. H. Bowman, the work was now
pushed forward. The original plans were changed in several respects.
Perhaps the most important modification was with respect to the
foundation. Instead of a “grillage of continuous square timbers” upon
the rock mass, Bowman’s idea of laying several courses of granite blocks
was adopted, in the main. Bowman had feared the complete destruction of
the wood by worms; and palmetto, which might have resisted such attack,
had not the compactness of fiber or the necessary strength to support
the weight of the superstructure.

The work was difficult. The granite of the foundation, for example, was
laid between high and low watermarks, and there were periods of time
when the tide permitted no work to be done at all. Yellow fever was a
recurrent problem; so was the excessive heat of the Charleston summers.
Much of the building material had to be brought in from the north. The
magnitude of the task is indicated by the quantities involved: about
10,000 tons of granite (some of it from as far away as the Penobscot
River region in Maine) and well over 60,000 tons of other rock. Bricks,
shells, and sand could be obtained locally, but even here there were
problems. Local brickyard capacities were small and millions of bricks
were required. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of bushels of shells
were needed—for concrete, for the foundation of the first-tier casemate
floors, and for use in the parade fill next to the enrockment. Even the
actual delivery of supplies, however local in origin, was a problem, for
then, as now, Fort Sumter was a difficult spot at which to land.

Fort Sumter in December 1860 was a five-sided brick masonry fort
designed for three tiers of guns. Its 5-foot-thick outer walls, towering
nearly 50 feet above low water, enclosed a parade ground of roughly 1
acre. Along four of the walls extended two tiers of arched gunrooms.
Officers’ quarters lined the fifth side—the 316.7-foot gorge. This wall
was to be armed only along the parapet. Three-story brick barracks for
the enlisted garrison paralleled the gunrooms on each flank. At the
center of the gorge was the sally port. It opened on the 25½-foot-wide
stone esplanade that extended the length of that wall and on a 171-foot

[Illustration: Spiking the guns at Fort Moultrie, just prior to
departure for Fort Sumter, December 26, 1860. From Frank Leslie’s
Illustrated Newspaper, January 5, 1861.]

Fort Sumter was unfinished when, late in December, gathering events
prompted its occupation by artillery troops. Eight-foot-square openings
yawned in place of gun embrasures on the second tier. Of the 135 guns
planned for the gunrooms and the open terreplein above, only 15 had been
mounted. Most of these were “32 pounders”; none was heavier. Various
details of the interior finish of barracks, quarters, and gunrooms were
incomplete. Congressional economies had had their effect, as much as
difficulties of construction. As late as 1858 and 1859, work had been
virtually at a standstill for lack of funds.

        _Major Anderson Moves Garrison from Moultrie to Sumter_

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. On the
night of the 26th, fearing attack by the excited populace, Maj. Robert
Anderson removed the small garrison he commanded at Fort Moultrie to
Fort Sumter out in the harbor. Ignorant of an apparent pledge to
maintain the harbor _status quo_, given by President Buchanan some weeks
before, Anderson moved in accordance with instructions received December
11, which read:

  “... you are to hold possession of the forts in this harbor, and if
  attacked you are to defend yourself to the last extremity. The
  smallness of your force will not permit you, perhaps, to occupy more
  than one of the three forts, but an attack on or attempt to take
  possession of any one of them will be regarded as an act of hostility,
  and you may then put your command into either of them which you may
  deem most proper to increase its power of resistance. You are also
  authorized to take similar steps whenever you have tangible evidence
  of a design to proceed to a hostile act.”

Anderson thought he had “tangible evidence” of hostile intent, both
towards Fort Moultrie—an old fort most vulnerable to land attack—and
towards unoccupied Fort Sumter. He moved now “to prevent the effusion of
blood” and because he was certain “that if attacked my men must have
been sacrificed, and the command of the harbor lost.” To Anderson, a
Kentuckian married to a Georgia girl, preservation of peace was of
paramount importance. At the same time, a veteran soldier of
“unquestioned loyalty,” he had a duty to perform.

Charleston was filled with excitement and rage. Crowds collected in the
streets; military organizations paraded; and “loud and violent were the
expressions of feeling against Major Anderson and his action.”

There was almost as much consternation in Washington as in Charleston.
Senators calling at the White House found President Buchanan greatly
agitated. He stood by the mantelpiece, crushing a cigar in the palm of
one hand, and stammered that the move was against his policy. The
cabinet was called into session, and on December 27, Secretary of War
Floyd wired Major Anderson:

  “Intelligence has reached here this morning that you have abandoned
  Fort Moultrie, ... and gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed,
  because there is no order for any such movement. Explain the meaning
  of this report.”

South Carolina regarded Anderson’s move not only as an “outrageous
breach of faith,” but as an act of aggression, and demanded, through
commissioners, that the United States Government evacuate Charleston
Harbor. President Buchanan, anxious to conciliate as well as maintain
authority, wavered. Cabinet pressures were brought to bear. Meanwhile,
on the 27th, South Carolina volunteers seized Castle Pinckney and Fort
Moultrie. On the 28th, the President refused to accede to South
Carolina’s demand.

[Illustration: Maj. Robert Anderson. From Lossing, A History of the
Civil War.]

The North was exultant. Amid cheers for Major Anderson, salvos of
artillery resounded in northern cities on New Year’s Day, 1861. By an
imposing majority, the House of Representatives voted approval of Major
Anderson’s “bold and patriotic” act.

At Fort Sumter, Major Anderson had two companies of the First United
States Artillery—about 85 officers and men in a fortification intended
for as many as 650. He had only “about 4 months” supply of provisions
for his command. The question of reenforcement and supply was to trouble
all the remaining days of the Buchanan administration and to carry over
to the succeeding administration. In it were the seeds of war.

                         _The Star of the West_

President Buchanan was persuaded to send off a relief expedition almost
immediately. Initial plans called for the dispatch of the sloop of war
_Brooklyn_ for this purpose, but when word came which indicated that the
South Carolinians had obstructed the harbor entrance by sinking several
ships, it was decided to use an ordinary merchant ship. The _Brooklyn_,
of heavy draft, could probably not now pass into the harbor. A merchant
ship would certainly excite less suspicion and would avoid the
appearance of a coercive movement. Accordingly, the _Star of the West_—a
ship which regularly sailed southward from New York—was chartered. Two
hundred men, small arms and ammunition, and several months’ provisions
were placed aboard. The men were to remain below deck on entering
Charleston Harbor; the _Brooklyn_ would follow, in case the _Star of the
West_ were fired upon and disabled.

[Illustration: The Star of the West. From Battles and Leaders of the
Civil War.]

But Charleston was forewarned. When the _Star of the West_ appeared at
the entrance of the harbor on January 9, 1861, Citadel cadets opened
fire with a gun mounted on Cummings Point; and the merchant ship,
unarmed, steamed out of the harbor. Anderson had held his fire, thinking
the firing unauthorized by the State authorities. Orders authorizing
supporting fire on his part had failed to reach him in time. As if
accidentally, civil war had been averted for the moment.

There was some Northern reaction to the incident, but further plans for
Anderson’s relief, once projected, were delayed. Anderson indicated no
immediate need, and President Buchanan was anxious to end his term of
office in peace. On January 10, the Secretary of War had ordered Major
Anderson to act “strictly on the defensive.” Anderson and Governor
Pickens of South Carolina exchanged angry letters, and the Governor’s
demand for the fort’s surrender (January 11) was resolved in the
“mission” to Washington of the State’s attorney general, I. G. Hayne.
When that mission, tempered by the efforts of cooler-headed Southern
Senators, met stubborn resistance on the part of President Buchanan, the
situation was resolved in the formation of the Southern Confederacy,
with the consequent assumption of the Fort Sumter problem by that

                         _Preparations for War_

Fort Sumter was now preparing for attack. Thirty-eight more guns were
mounted in the first tier of casemates and along the parapet, including
heavier “42 pounders” and Columbiads. Five Columbiads were mounted in
the parade as mortars and three howitzers about the sally port in the
gorge. By April 12, a total of 60 guns was ready. “Bombproof” shelters
and “splinter-proof” traverses were constructed on the parade ground and
along the parapet. Overhanging galleries were built out from the parapet
at strategic points for dropping shells on an assaulting force. Special
protection was given the gateway. Left unarmed, however, was the second
tier of casemates; the 8-foot-square openings in the outer wall were
bricked up. The small size of Major Anderson’s garrison did not permit
manning it.

Charleston, too, prepared. In addition to routine preparations at Castle
Pinckney and Fort Moultrie, additional batteries were prepared on
Sullivan’s Island, at Cummings Point on Morris Island, and outside Fort
Johnson. An “ironclad” Columbiad battery, constructed of inclined logs
plated with iron, was mounted at Cummings Point. Meanwhile, Governor
Pickens permitted Anderson to buy fresh meat and vegetables in town to
supplement his garrison “issue” supply.

On February 4, 1861, delegates from six seceding States—South Carolina,
Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—had met at
Montgomery, Ala., to form the Confederate government. A constitution had
been adopted and Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, had been elected
President and inaugurated on February 18. Texas came into the
Confederacy on March 2. By this time all forts, arsenals, and navy yards
in the seceding States had been seized by the Confederate government
without resistance, except Fort Pickens on Pensacola Bay in Florida, two
minor forts (Jefferson and Taylor) on and near the Florida coast, and
Fort Sumter. Because of its association with the “hotbed of secession”
and because of Major Anderson’s dramatic move, Fort Sumter had assumed
undeserved importance.

On March 3, Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard took command of the
Confederate troops at Charleston. Like Major Anderson, Beauregard was a
veteran of the Mexican War. He was a member of a Louisiana family of
distinguished French lineage. Late captain in the United States Army, he
had served briefly as superintendent of the United States Military
Academy at West Point as recently as January. Once, years back, he had
studied artillery there under Major Anderson; now, pupil confronted

          _Lincoln Orders a Relief Expedition to Fort Sumter_

On March 4, Abraham Lincoln assumed office as President of the United
States. In a firm, but generally conciliatory, inaugural address, he
made it clear that national authority must be upheld against the threat
of disunion. As to the Federal forts and property in the seceded States
he said: “The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and
possess the property and places belonging to the Government....” He did
not say “repossess.” Furthermore, there needed to be “no bloodshed or
violence” as the result of this policy “unless it be forced upon the
national authority.” The President concluded:

[Illustration: Confederate preparations at Cummings Point, Morris
Island. The inclined Ironclad Battery is at the left. From Frank
Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 30, 1861.]

[Illustration: In the face of war preparations, wives and children leave
Fort Sumter, February 3, 1861. From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated
Newspaper, February 23, 1861.]

  “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is
  the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.
  You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You
  have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the Government, while I
  shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend’ it.”

The Sumter situation was placed squarely before Lincoln on the day he
assumed office. On the morning of Inaugural Day the outgoing Secretary
of War received a dispatch from Major Anderson at Fort Sumter indicating
that the remainder of the “issue” rations brought over from Fort
Moultrie in December would last only a few more weeks. Meanwhile, in the
face of local preparations, an estimated force of 20,000 men would now
be needed to reenforce and supply Fort Sumter. It was clear that if
Anderson’s local “fresh food” supply were cut off, he would soon be in a
desperate state. At the same time, it seemed almost equally clear that a
relief expedition would be an impossibility. The entire Army of the
United States numbered less than 16,000 men. “Evacuation seems almost
inevitable,” wrote General Scott; the majority of Lincoln’s Cabinet
agreed. But Lincoln investigated further. In the meantime, reassured by
Secretary of State Seward as well as by others, the South came to
believe Fort Sumter would be evacuated.

[Illustration: Brig. Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. Courtesy
National Archives.]

On April 4, President Lincoln sent word to Major Anderson that an
attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions “and, in
case the effort is resisted ... to reenforce you.” Convinced from “on
the spot” reports that such an expedition was feasible, and that there
was no Union sentiment in South Carolina to which to appeal, Lincoln had
decided upon the nearest thing to preserving the _status quo_. Merchant
steamers under cover of ships of war would carry “subsistence and other
supplies” to Anderson; the ships of war (with troop reenforcements)
would be used only if a peaceable landing were opposed. Capt. G. V. Fox,
long an advocate of a relief expedition, would command. Meanwhile, in
accordance with pledge already given, the Governor of South Carolina
would be carefully informed in advance.

The announcement of the expedition to supply Fort Sumter was the spark
that set off the explosive forces which had been building up since 1850.
The Confederate capital at Montgomery was informed. Anderson’s “fresh”
provision supply had already been cut off on the 7th; now, his mail was

Work was pushed on the harbor fortifications. A new battery mounting two
“24 pounders” and two “32 pounders” was unmasked on Sullivan’s Island;
another ironclad battery was put into position at its western tip.
Originally designed to be “floating,” this battery mounted two heavy “42
pounders” in addition to two “32 pounders.” Near Mount Pleasant another
(10-inch) mortar battery was installed. At Fort Moultrie, 11 guns now
bore on Fort Sumter, including three 8-inch Columbiads. Additional guns
were mounted to command the channels and to guard against landings by
the fleet. Three thousand more troops were called, to be added to the
3,700 already on the post. The harbor seethed with activity.

“The gage is thrown down,” said the Charleston _Mercury_, “and we accept
the challenge. We will meet the invader, and God and Battle must decide
the issue between the hirelings of Abolition hate and Northern tyranny,
and the people of South Carolina defending their freedom and their

Now, just in time, a small (12-pounder Blakely) rifled gun arrived from
England as a gift of a Charlestonian, resident in London. It was mounted
at Cummings Point, ominous forerunner of the powerful rifled guns that 2
years later would reduce Fort Sumter to ruin.

           _The Confederates Demand Fort Sumter’s Evacuation_

[Illustration: Artist’s conception of the Confederate floating battery.
The structure at the right was designed to be a hospital. From Frank
Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, March 30, 1861.]

After cabinet debate in Montgomery, the Confederate Secretary of War
ordered General Beauregard to demand the evacuation of the fort, and if
that demand were refused, to “reduce it.” On the afternoon of April 11,
three of Beauregard’s aides visited the fort under a flag of truce and
presented the ultimatum. Major Anderson refused compliance, but at the
same time he said, “Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces
about us, we shall be starved out in a few days.” Still reluctant to
initiate conflict, the Montgomery government telegraphed:


  “Do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter. If Major Anderson
  will state the time at which ... he will evacuate, and agree that in
  the meantime he will not use his guns against us unless ours should be
  employed against Fort Sumter, you are authorized thus to avoid the
  effusion of blood. If this or its equivalent be refused, reduce the

The atmosphere in Charleston was tense. In at least one household,
dinner was the “merriest, maddest ... yet. Men were more audaciously
wise and witty. We had an unspoken foreboding it was to be our last
pleasant meeting.”

Shortly after midnight, four Confederate officers confronted Major
Anderson again. About 3 hours later, in a carefully worded reply, the
Union commander agreed to evacuate “by noon on the 15th” unless he
should receive prior to that time “controlling instructions from my
Government or additional supplies.” But it was expected in Charleston
that the Federal supply ships would arrive before the 15th. Major
Anderson’s reply was rejected by the Confederate officers, who proceeded
at once to Fort Johnson to give the order to open fire.

                    _The War Begins—April 12, 1861_

  “I count four by St. Michael’s chimes, and I begin to hope. At half
  past four, the heavy booming of a cannon! I sprang out of bed and on
  my knees, prostrate, I prayed as I never prayed before.”

At 4:30 a. m., a mortar at Fort Johnson fired a shell which arched
across the sky and burst almost directly over Fort Sumter. This was the
signal for opening the bombardment. Within a few minutes, a ring of guns
and mortars about the harbor—43 in all—were firing at Sumter.

[Illustration: Artist’s conception of the bombardment of Fort Sumter,
April 12, 1861. Fort Johnson is in the foreground. From Harper’s Weekly,
April 27, 1861.]

[Illustration: Preparing to fire the first shot from Fort Sumter, April
12, 1861. Contemporary artist’s conception. Courtesy Charleston Library

Major Anderson withheld fire until about 7 o’clock. Then Capt. Abner
Doubleday, of latter-day baseball fame, fired a shot at the Ironclad
Battery on Cummings Point. Ominously, the light shot “bounded off from
the sloping roof ... without producing any apparent effect.” Not at any
time during the battle did the guns of Fort Sumter do great damage to
the Confederate defenses. Most of Fort Sumter’s heaviest guns were on
the parapet and in the parade, and, to reduce casualties in the small
garrison, Major Anderson ordered these left unmanned. For a while, with
the help of the 43 engineer workmen remaining at the fort, 9 or 10 of
the casemate guns were manned. But by noon, the expenditure of
ammunition was so much more rapid than the manufacture of new cartridge
bags that the firing was restricted to 6 guns only. Meanwhile

  “Showers of balls from 10-inch Columbiads and 42 pounders, and shells
  from [10] inch mortars poured into the fort in one incessant stream,
  causing great flakes of masonry to fall in all directions. When the
  immense mortar shells, after sailing high in the air, came down in a
  vertical direction, and buried themselves in the parade ground, their
  explosion shook the fort like an earthquake.”

All Charleston watched. Business was entirely suspended. King Street was
deserted. The Battery, the wharves and shipping, and “every steeple and
cupalo in the city” were crowded with anxious spectators. And “never
before had such crowds of ladies without attendants” visited the streets
of Charleston. “The women were wild” on the housetops. In the darkness
before dawn there were “Prayers from the women and imprecations from the
men; and then a shell would light up the scene.” As the day advanced,
the city became rife with rumors: “Tonight, they say, the forces are to
attempt to land. The _Harriet Lane_ had her wheel house smashed and put
back to sea.... We hear nothing, can listen to nothing. Boom boom goes
the cannon all the time. The nervous strain is awful....” Volunteers
rushed to join their companies. There was “Stark Means marching under
the piazza at the head of his regiment ...,” his proud mother leaning
over the balcony rail “looking with tearful eyes.” Two members of the
Palmetto Guards paid $50 for a boat to carry them to Morris Island.

[Illustration: The bombardment of Fort Sumter, April 13, 1861.]

The barracks at Fort Sumter caught fire three times that first day, but
each time the fire was extinguished. One gun on the parapet was
dismounted; another damaged. The wall about one embrasure was shattered
to a depth of 20 inches. That was the Blakely rifle, in part, firing
with “the accuracy of a duelling pistol.” The quarters on the gorge were
completely riddled. When night descended, dark and stormy, Fort Sumter’s
fire ceased entirely. With the six needles available, the work of making
cartridge bags went forward; blankets, old clothing, extra hospital
sheets, and even paper, were used in the emergency. In the meantime, the
supply fleet, off the bar since the onset of hostilities, did no more
than maintain its position. It had been crippled upon departure when
Seward’s meddling had caused withdrawal of the powerful warship
_Powhatan_. Now, bad weather prevented even a minimum supporting

[Illustration: Col. Louis T. Wigfall. From Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, A
Southern Girl in ’61. Courtesy Doubleday & Company.]

On the morning of the 13th, Sumter opened “early and spitefully,” and,
with the increased supply of cartridges, for a while kept up a brisk
fire. About midmorning hot shot set fire to the officers’ quarters. The
Confederate fire then increased; soon the whole extent of the quarters
was in flames; the powder magazines were in danger. The blaze spread to
the barracks. By noon the fort was almost uninhabitable. The men crowded
to the embrasures for air or lay on the ground with handkerchiefs over
their mouths. For a time the fort continued to fire; valiant efforts had
saved some of the powder before the onrush of the flames forced the
closing of the magazines. Meanwhile, at every shot, the Confederate
troops, “carried away by their natural generous impulses,” mounted the
different batteries and “cheered the garrison for its pluck and
gallantry and hooted the fleet lying inactive just outside the bar.”

[Illustration: Interior of Fort Sumter after the bombardment of April
1861. The Left Flank barrack is at the left; the Left Face is at the
right. From G. S. Crawford, The Genesis of the Civil War.]

[Illustration: Interior of the Gorge after the April 1861 bombardment.
Parade entrance to sally port is at center.]

About 1:30 in the afternoon the flag was shot down. Almost accidentally,
this led to surrender. By authority of General Simons, commanding on
Morris Island, Col. Louis T. Wigfall, one of General Beauregard’s aides
detached for duty at that spot, set out by small boat to ascertain
whether Major Anderson would capitulate. Till recently, Wigfall had been
United States Senator from Texas. Before he arrived at the beleaguered
fort, the United States flag was again flying, but Wigfall continued on.
The firing continued from the batteries across the harbor. Once through
an embrasure on the Left Flank, white handkerchief on the point of his
sword, Colonel Wigfall offered the Federal commander any terms he
desired, only “the precise nature of which” would have to be arranged
with General Beauregard. Anderson accepted on the basis of Beauregard’s
original terms: evacuation with his command, taking arms and all private
and company property, saluting the United States flag as it was lowered,
and being conveyed, if desired, to a Northern port. The white flag went
up again; the firing ceased. Wigfall departed confident that Anderson
had surrendered unconditionally. He and his boatman were borne ashore
“in triumph.”

[Illustration: Exterior of the Gorge after the April 1861 bombardment.
The sally port is at the left.]

Meanwhile, officers had arrived at the fort direct from General
Beauregard’s headquarters in Charleston. From these men, dispatched to
offer assistance to the Federal commander, Anderson learned that
Wigfall’s action was unauthorized; that, indeed, the colonel had not
seen the Commanding General since the start of the battle. From another
party of officers he learned Beauregard’s exact terms of surrender. They
failed to include the privilege of saluting the flag, though in all
other respects they were the same as those Anderson believed he had
accepted from Wigfall. Impetuously, Anderson had first declared he would
run up his flag again. Then, restrained by Beauregard’s aides, he waited
while his request for permission to salute the flag was conveyed to the
Commanding General. In the course of the afternoon, General Beauregard
courteously sent over a fire engine from the city. About 7:30 that
evening, Beauregard’s chief of staff returned with word that Major
Anderson’s request would be granted and the terms offered on the 11th
would be faithfully adhered to. The engagement was officially at an end.
During the 34-hour bombardment, more than 3,000 shells had been hurled
at the fort.

[Illustration: Rear Adm. Samuel F. Du Pont. From Johnson, The Defense of
Charleston Harbor.]


_NOTE: A Guide to the Area keyed to numbers on the map begins on page 42_

On Sunday, April 14, Major Anderson and his garrison marched out of the
fort with drums beating and colors flying and boarded ship to join the
Federal fleet off the bar. On the 50th round of what was to have been a
100-gun salute to the United States flag, there occurred the only
fatality of the engagement. The premature discharge of a gun and the
explosion of a pile of cartridges resulted in the death of Pvt. Daniel
Hough. Another man, mortally wounded, died several days later. The 50th
round was the last. Now, as the steamer _Isabel_ went down the channel,
the soldiers of the Confederate batteries on Cummings Point lined the
beach, silent, heads uncovered.

The following day, April 15, 1861, Abraham Lincoln issued a call for
75,000 militia. Civil war, so long dreaded, had begun. The States of
Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina now joined the

             _Charleston and the Federal Blockade—1861-63_

With Fort Sumter in Confederate hands, the port of Charleston became a
most irritating loophole in the Federal naval blockade of the Atlantic
coast—doubly irritating because at Charleston “rebellion first lighted
the flame of civil war.” As late as January 1863, it was reported that
“vessels ply to and from Charleston and Nassau [Bahamas] with the
certainty and promptness of a regular line.” In 2 months of the spring
following, 21 Confederate vessels cleared Charleston and 15 came in.
Into Charleston came needed war supplies; out went cotton in payment.

Capture of Port Royal Harbor on November 7, 1861, by a Federal fleet
under Capt. Samuel F. Du Pont, however, had made possible land and sea
operations against Charleston. In June 1862, an attempt was made by Maj.
Gen. D. H. Hunter to push through to Charleston by James Island on the
south. This ended in Union disaster at Secessionville. Meanwhile, the
_Monitor-Merrimac_ action in Hampton Roads had indicated the feasibility
of a naval “ironclad” expedition against Fort Sumter, the key to the
harbor. Sumter, now largely rebuilt, had become a formidable work armed
with some 95 guns and garrisoned with upwards of 500 men. In May 1862,
the Navy Department had determined to capture Charleston “as soon as
Richmond falls.” To Du Pont, who was now rear admiral, there seemed to
be a “morbid appetite in the land to have Charleston.” The War
Department, meanwhile, far from supplying additional troops to General
Hunter’s command in South Carolina, withdrew units to reenforce General
McClellan in Virginia.

                 _Federal Ironclads Attack Fort Sumter_

On April 5, 1863, a fleet of 9 Federal ironclads, armed with 32 guns “of
the heaviest calibres ever used in war,” appeared off Charleston bar.
Seven were of the single-turret “cheesebox on a raft” monitor type; one
was a double-turreted affair; the flagship _New Ironsides_ was an
ironclad frigate. With the ebb tide, on the afternoon of the 7th, the
“newfangled” ironclads steamed single file up the main ship channel east
of Morris Island. The weather was clear and bright; the water “as stable
as of a river.” By 3 o’clock, the _Weehawken_, the leading monitor, had
come within range, and Fort Moultrie opened fire. The _Passaic_, second
in line, responded. Fort Sumter held fire, guns trained on a buoy at the
turn of the channel. When the _Weehawken_ came abreast of that point,
all the guns atop Sumter’s right flank let loose, followed by all the
guns on Sullivan’s Island, at Fort Moultrie, and at Cummings Point that
could be brought to bear.

[Illustration: Contemporary artist’s conception of Ironclad attack,
April 7, 1863. The flagship New Ironsides is at left center. From
Harper’s Weekly, May 2, 1863.]

It was too much for the ironclads, slow and unwieldy, possessed of
limited vision, and operating in a narrow and uncertain channel. In the
course of the 2½-hour fight, only one came as close as 900 yards to Fort
Sumter. To the 2,209 rounds hurled against them, the ironclads were able
to return only 154, of which only 34 found the target. These breached
and loosened the right flank parapet for a length of 25 feet and pocked
the walls elsewhere with craters up to 2½ feet deep. But it was far from
enough; Fort Sumter remained strong and secure. In the meantime, five of
the ironclads were seriously disabled by the accurate fire, and one, the
_Keokuk_, sank the following morning in the shallow water off Morris
Island. In a daring exploit sometime later, Confederate troops recovered
the guns of the _Keokuk_ and mounted one at Fort Sumter.

Admiral Du Pont had “attempted to take the bull by the horns but had
failed.” The North, so confident of victory, was stunned at a time when
the general military situation gave cause for gloom. The war in the East
had been bloody and indecisive till now; the news from the West was bad.

Federal authorities looked to a combined operation to seize Morris
Island and from there demolish Fort Sumter. With Fort Sumter reduced,
the harbor could be entered.

              _The Morris Island Approach to Fort Sumter_

Folly Island and Cole’s Island, next south of Morris Island, had been
occupied by Northern troops just prior to the naval attack. In June and
July, the northern end of Folly Island was fortified. In a remarkable
operation, 47 guns and mortars were secretly placed “within speaking
distance of the enemy’s pickets.” Some 11,000 men were concentrated on
the island. Brig. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, the “breacher” of Fort
Pulaski, assumed command on June 12. Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren
superseded Admiral Du Pont on July 6.

[Illustration: Col. Alfred Rhett. From Johnson, The Defense of
Charleston Harbor.]

[Illustration: Bvt. Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore. From Johnson, The
Defense of Charleston Harbor.]

During that time the Confederates mounted guns at the southern end of
Morris Island and built up the earthworks at its upper end—Battery Gregg
at Cummings Point and Battery Wagner some 1,400 yards to the south. The
latter work, commanding the island at its narrowest point, was made into
a formidable “sand fort” mounting about 15 guns.

Fort Sumter, 1,390 yards distant from Battery Gregg, prepared for siege,
too. Brick and stone masonry “counterforts,” already built at each
extremity of the esplanade as protection for the magazines, were now
strengthened, and much of the remaining gorge exterior was sandbagged,
or otherwise protected. The casemates on the right flank (“sea front”)
were filled with sand, and the rooms on the gorge were filled with damp
cotton bales laid in sand. The upper-tier magazines were abandoned and
filled with sandbags to protect the magazines below. Protective
revetments and defensive devices of various sorts were introduced at
various points throughout the fort. During this period the garrison was
host at frequent intervals to officers on leave, citizens of Charleston,
and even many ladies, who came to see the scars of the April battle, to
admire the drill, or to observe the preparations. At the end of June
1863, Fort Sumter was garrisoned with 5 companies (perhaps 500 men) of
the First South Carolina Artillery, under the command of Col. Alfred
Rhett. Its armament, meanwhile, had been reduced to 68 guns and mortars,
many of the finest pieces having been removed to strengthen other
fortifications about the harbor.

On the morning of July 10, 3,000 Union infantrymen, supported by the
artillery on Folly Island and the guns of 4 monitors, descended on the
southern end of Morris Island. Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, a company
commander at Fort Sumter 2 years before, commanded the assault. Within 4
hours, three-fourths of Morris Island was in his hands. Hopelessly
outgunned and outmanned, the Confederate forces fell back to Battery
Wagner. The guns of Fort Sumter helped to cover the retreat.

A “desperate” assault upon Wagner the following morning failed, though
the parapet was briefly gained. General Gillmore established
counterbatteries and tried again on the 18th. From noon until nightfall
that day “without cessation or intermission,” Federal guns poured a
“storm of shot and shell upon Fort Wagner ... perhaps unequalled in
history”; then, some 6,000 troops assaulted—in the van, the 54th
Massachusetts, “the first colored regiment of the North to go to war.”
In a short savage struggle, Seymour’s force suffered 1,500 casualties.
Though one angle of the fort was gained and held for a time, the attack
was repulsed.

Thwarted in his plan to secure easy possession of Morris Island as a
base for breaching operations against Fort Sumter, General Gillmore now
determined to attempt that fort’s reduction from the ground already in
his possession. Batteries Wagner and Gregg would be taken by protracted
siege operations. At Fort Sumter, removal of guns and ammunition
continued apace. Anticipating that Sumter was “liable to be silenced
sooner or later,” and fearing attack at other points about the harbor,
the Confederate authorities husbanded their resources. By mid-August,
Fort Sumter’s armament was reduced to a safe minimum of 38 guns and 2

At distances of 2 to 2½ miles from Fort Sumter—distances extraordinary
for such operations—Gillmore set up eight batteries of heavy rifled
cannon. In the marsh west of Morris Island, where the mud was “like
liquid,” his engineers successfully emplaced a “200 pounder” to fire on
Charleston; this was to be the notorious “Swamp Angel.”

[Illustration: The first great breach in Fort Sumter’s walls. Left Face
interior, August 20, 1863. From an original photograph by G. S. Cook.
Courtesy Mrs. T. R. Simmons, Charleston.]

              _The First Great Bombardment of Fort Sumter_

After some experimental firing starting August 12, the bombardment of
Fort Sumter began in earnest on August 17. Nearly 1,000 shells were
hurled at the fort that first day; nearly 5,000 more during the week
following. Even at the end of the first day it was obvious that Fort
Sumter was never intended to withstand “200 pound Yankee Parrotts.”
Then, 3 days later, a 13-ton monster throwing 250-pound shells was
added, making 18 rifled cannon in action. Because of the range involved,
the fort could not reply to the land batteries, and the monitors
presented themselves only fleetingly.

On the 21st, with the “Swamp Angel” in position, Gillmore demanded the
evacuation of Fort Sumter and Morris Island, threatening direct fire on
the city of Charleston. Gillmore’s ultimatum was unsigned, and General
Beauregard was absent from his headquarters; but before confirmation
could be secured, Gillmore had opened fire on the city. But little
damage had been done when, on the 36th round, the “Swamp Angel” burst.
Meanwhile, Beauregard had delivered an indignant reply. The bombardment
of Fort Sumter continued.

By the 24th, General Gillmore was able to report the “practical
demolition” of the fort. On that date, only one gun remained
“serviceable in action.” On the morning of the 23d, against Dahlgren’s
ironclads, Fort Sumter had fired what were to be its last shots in
action. Its brick masonry walls were shattered and undermined; a breach
8 by 10 feet yawned in the upper casemates of the left face; at points,
the sloped debris of the walls already provided a practicable route for

Still, the Confederate garrison, supplemented by a force of 200 to 400
Negroes, labored night and day, strengthening and repairing. The debris,
accumulating above the sand- and cotton-filled rooms, itself bolstered
the crumbling walls. On August 26, General Beauregard ordered Fort
Sumter held “to the last extremity.”

The bombardment continued sporadically during the week following. On the
night of September 1-2, the ironclads moved against the fort—the first
major naval operation against Fort Sumter since the preceding April.
Attempts earlier in the week had been thwarted by circumstance; now,
conditions were right. For 5 hours, the frigate _New Ironsides_ and five
monitors bombarded the fort, now without a gun with which to reply to
the “sneaking sea-devils.” Two hundred and forty-five shot and shell
were hurled against the ruin—twice as many as were thrown in the April
attack. Then, tidal conditions, as much as a “rapid and sustained” fire
from Fort Moultrie, forced the monitors’ withdrawal.

[Illustration: Maj. Stephen Elliott. From Johnson, The Defense of
Charleston Harbor.]

[Illustration: Shell from the monitor Weehawken exploding on the
interior of Fort Sumter, September 8, 1863. From an original photograph
by G. S. Cook, Courtesy Charleston Chapter No. 4, United Daughters of
the Confederacy.]

Some desultory firing on the 2d brought to a close the first sustained
bombardment of Fort Sumter. Over 7,300 rounds had been hurled against
the fort since the opening of fire on August 17. With the fort, to all
intents, reduced to a “shapeless and harmless mass of ruins,” the
Federal commanders now concentrated on Battery Wagner, to which General
Gillmore’s sappers had come within 100 yards.

On the morning of September 5, Federal cannoneers commenced a
devastating barrage against that work. For 42 hours, night and day, in a
spectacle “of surpassing sublimity and grandeur,” 17 mortars and 9
rifled cannon, as well as the powerful guns of the ironclads, pounded
the earthwork. Calcium lights “turned night into day.” On the night of
September 6-7, the Confederate garrisons at Wagner and Gregg evacuated;
Morris Island, after 58 days, was at last in the hands of Union troops.
Just three-quarters of a mile away stood Fort Sumter.

Sumter remained defiant. When Admiral Dahlgren demanded the fort’s
surrender, on the morning of the 7th, General Beauregard sent word that
the admiral could have it when he could “take it and hold it.” On
September 4 the garrison had been relieved with fresh troops—320 strong.
Maj. Stephen Elliott succeeded to the command.

Admiral Dahlgren “immediately designed to put into operation a plan to
capture Fort Sumter.” As a preliminary, the monitor _Weehawken_ was
ordered to pass in around Cummings Point “to cut off all communication
by that direction.” Later in the day, the _New Ironsides_ and the
remaining ironclads were to move up “to feel, and if possible, pass” the
obstructions believed to be in the channel north of Sumter. But the
Weehawken grounded, and the monitors caught such a severe fire from Fort
Moultrie and the other Confederate batteries on Sullivan’s Island, that
Admiral Dahlgren “deemed it best to give [his] entire attention to the
_Weehawken_” and withdraw. Whatever his original plan, Admiral Dahlgren
now determined upon a small-boat assault. The task seemed simple; there
was “nothing but a corporal’s guard in the fort ... all we have to do is
go and take possession.”


[Illustration: “The Flag of Sumter, October 20, 1863” painted by Conrad
Wise Chapman, Confederate artist. Courtesy Confederate Museum,

                        _The Small-boat Assault_

On the night of September 8-9, 400 sailors and marines made the attempt.
A tug towed the small boats within 800 yards of the fort, then, too
awkwardly, cast them loose. In the darkness and confusion, plans went
awry. Without the benefit of a diversionary assault, two columns
advanced simultaneously upon the right flank of the fort.

The Confederate garrison coolly held fire till the leading boats were in
the act of landing, then let loose with a galling fire of musketry, hand
grenades, “fire balls,” grape and canister, brickbats, and masonry
fragments. At a signal from the fort, the Confederate gunboat _Chicora_
steamed out from the harbor and opened fire; Fort Moultrie “fired like a

From the outer boats, the marines replied rapidly for a few minutes.
Some of the sailors ashore fired a few times from their revolvers, but
for the most part sought refuge in the embrasures or breaches of the
wall. It was all over in 20 minutes. Most of the boats did not even
touch shore. The Federal loss was 124 killed, wounded, and captured; 5
boats were taken. A similar expedition from Gillmore’s command was
detained by low tide in a creek west of Morris Island. Service rivalry
had prevented active cooperation that might have meant victory.

For 19 days following the small-boat assault, Fort Sumter was free of
attack; then, after a 6-day bombardment of “minor” proportions, for 23
days more. Damages sustained by the monitors in the Morris Island
operation, as much as fear of channel obstructions (a menace afterwards
proved greatly exaggerated) and Fort Moultrie’s evidently increased
firepower, made Admiral Dahlgren reluctant to make another move at this
time. General Gillmore, engaged now in rebuilding and rearming the
captured Confederate batteries on Cummings Point, thought he had
accomplished his part of the operation. In his opinion, Fort Sumter was
effectively reduced; its seizure and occupation would be a costly and
unnecessary operation. Further offensive operations by his force had
never been contemplated; and the reenforcements needed for such
operations were not to be had. Indeed, with the “turn of the tide” at
Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Charleston had suddenly become much less

Meanwhile, Fort Sumter’s garrison was not idle. It was at this time that
the great “central bombproof,” with quarters for 100 men, was built out
from the gorge interior and, in the remaining casemates of the right
face, a new 3-gun battery mounted.

[Illustration: “Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie, November 10, 1863”
painted by Conrad Wise Chapman. Courtesy Confederate Museum, Richmond.]

                     _The Second Great Bombardment_

On October 26, “on the strength of certain reports ... that the enemy
have recently been at work remounting some guns,” Gillmore resumed the
bombardment; at least Fort Sumter could be “kept down” while the Navy
prepared. For the next 12 days, the concentration of fire was comparable
to the great bombardment of the preceding August. But now, firing from
the new batteries on Cummings Point, with range shortened to less than a
mile, the effect was far greater. For the first time, 16 heavy mortars
were in use—2 of them 8½-ton pieces (13-inch bore) throwing 200-pound
projectiles. Their sharp, plunging fire was added to that of 12 Parrott
rifles—the types already used so effectively against the fort—and 1
powerful Columbiad. In addition, 2 monitors, with guns “equal to a
dozen” Parrotts, crossed fire with Gillmore’s artillery.

Sumter’s “sea front” (right flank), upright and relatively unscathed
till then, was breached now for nearly half its length. The ramparts and
arches of its upper casemates were cut down and the interior barracks
demolished. The accumulated debris made ascent easy inside and out.
Through the breach, the Federal guns took the channel fronts “in
reverse.” For the first time, these were exposed to direct fire; soon
they were “cut and jagged.” Still, the gorge ruin remained much the
same; to Admiral Dahlgren, that “heap of rubbish” looked “invincible.”

Night and day, Gillmore’s batteries maintained a “slow fire” against
Fort Sumter throughout November and into December. On occasion the
monitors assisted. Sumter could return merely “harmless musketry”; only
telescopic rifle sights made even that much possible. But, the “rebels”
seemed “snug in the ruins”; and if Sumter was without guns, Confederate
batteries on James and Sullivan’s Islands kept up an irritating

[Illustration: Capt. John C. Mitchel. From Johnson, The Defense of
Charleston Harbor.]

[Illustration: Capt. Thomas A. Huguenin. From Johnson, The Defense of
Charleston Harbor.]

On November 6, the Confederate engineer at Fort Sumter reported the
bombproofs (quarters) unhurt. Although the height of the mass of the
fort was “diminishing visibly on the sides away from the city,” still,
“when it gets down to the lower casemates [he wrote] it will have become
so thick from accumulated debris as to resist further battering.” Two
weeks later, Major Johnson found the fort stronger than ever, and
casualties were “either among those carelessly exposing themselves,
outside the bombproof, or obliged to do so when at work.” Indeed,
casualties had been surprisingly low—only 2 men had been killed in the
bombardment of August and only 22 more since the start of the second
great bombardment; 118 had been wounded. Major Johnson did not
“apprehend being run out by the big guns”; his chief anxiety was over
“exposure to assault from barges at night.”

In mid-November such an attack seemed to be forthcoming. During the
early hours of the 18th, the defenders of the fort had “four distinct
alarms” as small boats approached within hailing distance; “all hands
out each time and expecting a fight.” On the following night, a force
estimated at 250 men approached within 300 yards of the fort, only to be
driven off by the muskets of the aroused garrison.

But General Gillmore had merely ordered a “reconnaissance ... of the
nature of a simulated attack, with a view to compel the garrison to show
its strength.” Nor would he make another attempt. The next move remained
up to the Navy.

Admiral Dahlgren continued to make no move. In any event, he could not
advance until the repairs on the monitors were finished. As late as
January 1864 these still were not complete. Meanwhile, in the face of
reports of greatly strengthened harbor fortifications other than Fort
Sumter, and increasingly concerned over the nature of the harbor
obstructions, he was reluctant now to move forward without additional
monitors. Defeat was always possible, and defeat for the Union’s “only
ironclad squadron” might have serious consequences, not only for the
blockade and Gillmore’s command on Morris Island, but for future
operations elsewhere along the coast. In the meantime, “substantial”
advantages had already been gained; the blockade at Charleston was
tighter with Morris Island in Federal hands. To all this, the Navy
Department agreed. Elsewhere, however, the war gathered momentum. In
November, the North won decisively at Chattanooga.

The additional monitors, always promised, never seemed to arrive. On
December 5, General Gillmore stopped the bombardment of Fort Sumter
begun 41 days earlier. There seemed no great advantage in continuing,
and it required considerable ammunition.

                       _Stalemate—Spring of 1864_

The general had made his last sustained effort against the fort. On only
four other days in December did he fire any rounds at all. During the 4
months he remained in command the firing was intermittent, never more
than “minor” in character. Meanwhile, forthcoming operations in Virginia
required all the troops available. On May 1, 1864, General Gillmore
departed for Fort Monroe with 18,000 picked men and quantities of
valuable matériel.

General Grant’s operations required the services of the additional
monitors awaited by Admiral Dahlgren. With the monitor force reduced to
six by the foundering of the _Weehawken_ in December, further offensive
operations against Charleston seemed completely out of the question. In
June, the ironclad frigate _New Ironsides_ was withdrawn to the north.

                       _Fort Sumter Strengthened_

In the preceding December, Fort Sumter had been an “almost chaotic
ruin.” At night, below the “rugged outline of the ramparts,” wrote one
of the garrison, all was—

  “dark with piles of disordered material; a chance shower of sparks
  blows out from smouldering fire and lights up some great rough blocks
  of brick work and the pools of stagnant water into which they have
  been violently thrown some days before. Or lanterns move about in
  unseen hands, some to light a way for long trains of men toiling with
  heavy timbers and bags of sand over the roughest footing and up steep
  and uncertain, tumbling slopes; some to direct the heaping of material
  over old damaged hiding places repaired for the twentieth time since
  the firing began, or to build up newer and more lasting shelters for
  the garrison....”

With the fort practically left alone during the months immediately
following, the garrison gradually restored order from chaos. The parade
ground, excavated well below high-water level to provide sand-filling,
was cleared, drained, and partially rebuilt. Trim ranks of gabions
(wicker baskets filled with sand) bolstered the sloping debris of the
walls on the interior. The three-gun battery in the lower right face was
lined with logs and planks, 10 feet deep, and revetted more thoroughly
in the rear. In casemates of the left flank another three-gun battery
was created. Through the disordered debris of the left and right faces,
the garrison tunneled a 275-foot timbered gallery connecting the two
batteries and fort headquarters in the left flank. In from the rubble of
the “sea front,” the garrison built a loopholed timber blockhouse to
cover the parade ground in the event of further assault. In May, Capt.
John C. Mitchel, son of the Irish patriot, relieved Lt. Col. Stephen
Elliott in command.

                     _The Third Great Bombardment_

The onset of summer, 1864, brought one more attempt to take Fort Sumter;
likewise another officer of the original Fort Sumter garrison came into
the operation. Maj. Gen. J. G. Foster, engineer of the fort in April
1861, succeeding to Gillmore’s command on May 26, was convinced that
“with proper arrangements” the fort could easily be taken “at any time.”
The “proper arrangements” included special light-draft steamers and
1,000-man “assaulting arks” equipped with elevated towers for
sharpshooters and 51-foot scaling ladders. Though initial War Department
reaction was cool, Foster went ahead with a preliminary operation to
complete the demolition of the fort. “Yankee ingenuity” might succeed
where routine operations had failed or been judged too costly.

[Illustration: “Fort Sumter: Interior Sunrise, December 9, 1864” painted
by Conrad Wise Chapman. Courtesy Confederate Museum, Richmond.]

On July 7, 1864, Foster’s batteries opened a sustained bombardment
against the ruin of Fort Sumter. During the remainder of that month, an
average of 350 rounds daily was hurled at the beleagured fort. In some
respects, this was the heaviest bombardment Fort Sumter had yet
received. Although the gorge ruin was wasted away at one point to within
20 feet of the water, and the shattered “sea front” was still further
reduced, the right face remained erect, its three-gun battery intact,
likewise most of the left flank. To Admiral Dahlgren, as late as July
21, the work seemed “nearly impregnable.” Debris added to debris,
feverish work day and night, and thousands of bags of sand brought from
the city by night actually made the fort stronger than ever. If a
casemate were breached, it was speedily filled; if the slopes of the
ruin invited assault, a bristling array of wooden pikes and barbed-wire
entanglements were provided; and there were always the muskets of the
300-man garrison.

The fire slackened in August; Foster’s supply of ammunition was
dwindling. A scheme for “shaking down” the fort walls by floating down
large “powder rafts” failed miserably. Mid-August brought final War
Department refusal to supply light-draft steamers; the end of August,
sharp disapproval for Foster’s “assaulting arks.” Meanwhile, Admiral
Dahlgren had been unwilling to cooperate in an alternate plan of

With his requisitions for more ammunition unfilled, General Foster was
now called upon to ship north most of his remaining ammunition and four
more regiments of troops to be used in Grant’s operations against
Richmond. Foster was ordered to remain strictly on the defensive.

On September 4, the bombardment begun on July 7 came to an end. In the
61 days, another 14,666 rounds had been hurled against the fort. Sixteen
of the garrison had been killed, 65 wounded. On July 20, Captain Mitchel
fell mortally wounded. Capt. Thomas A. Huguenin succeeded him that

              _Sherman’s March Forces Sumter’s Evacuation_

The last great bombardment of Fort Sumter had taken place. The firing
was no more than desultory after September 1864; less than a hundred
rounds were hurled at the fort in the months of December and January;
none at all in February. During the autumn months it was all Foster’s
batteries could do to make a “decent defense” of Morris Island, let
alone carry on any offensive operations. Wrote one of the commanders in

  “The shelling from the enemy’s mortars was severe ... and having but
  little mortar powder, we were unable to reply effectually.... I regret
  that our ordnance supplies are so scanty.... No powder for the
  mortars; no suitable fuses for the fire on Charleston; no shells for
  the 30-pounder Parrotts, a most useful gun for silencing the enemy’s
  fire; no material for making cartridge bags, or grease for lubricating
  the projectiles.... More ammunition for the 300-pounder, the most
  useful guns in these works, is also very much needed....”

And Sumter itself was more than irritating:

  “Within the last 2 days the work ... has been greatly interfered with
  by a corps of sharpshooters ... stationed on Fort Sumter. The bullets
  came in very thick when I was at the front this morning....”

In February 1865, the long stalemate came to an end. In that month,
General Sherman commenced his march north from Savannah through the
interior of South Carolina, slicing between the remnants of Hood’s army
on the west and the small Confederate force remaining along the coast.
On the 17th, with Sherman in Columbia, Fort Sumter and the other
Confederate fortifications in Charleston harbor were quietly evacuated.
At 9 o’clock on the morning of the 18th, the United States flag was once
more raised over Fort Sumter. The fortunes of war had accomplished what
3,500 tons of metal, a fleet of ironclads, and thousands of men had
failed to do.

                        _Major Anderson Returns_

On April 14, 1865, Robert Anderson, now a retired brigadier general,
returned to Fort Sumter to raise again the flag he had pulled down 4
years before. The guns of the harbor thundered in salute. In an address
before the throng of spectators brought down from New York, Henry Ward
Beecher said:

[Illustration: Raising the original flag at Fort Sumter, April 14, 1865.
Contemporary artist’s sketch from French and Cary, The Trip of the
Steamer Oceanus to Fort Sumter.]

  “We raise our fathers’ banner, that it may bring back better blessings
  than those of old, that it may cast out the devil of discord; that it
  may restore lawful government and a prosperity purer and more enduring
  than that which it protected before; that it may win parted friends
  from their alienation; that it may inspire hope and inaugurate
  universal liberty; ... that it may heal all jealousies, unite all
  policies, inspire a new national life, compact our strength, purify
  our principles, ennoble our national ambitions, and make this people
  great and strong ... for the peace of the world....”

That night, with tragic coincidence, an assassin’s bullet felled Abraham
Lincoln in Washington.

[Illustration: Horizontal section, Fort Sumter, February 1865. The Gorge
is at the base of the plan. Courtesy National Archives.]

                        _Fort Sumter After 1865_

In the 1870’s the rubble and ruin of war were cleared from the interior
of Fort Sumter, and the work of reconstruction began. The outer walls of
the gorge and right flank, largely destroyed by the bombardments, were
partially rebuilt. The other walls of the fort, left jagged and torn 30
to 40 feet above water, were leveled to approximately half their
original height. Through the left flank a new sally port was
constructed. Within the reconstructed walls of the fort, the earth and
concrete works for a 10-gun battery _en barbette_ (guns fired from an
open parapet) began to take shape.

[Illustration: Interior of the Gorge as seen from atop the Left Flank,
February 1865. The central bombproof is at the left.]

Operations were well advanced, when, in June 1876, shortage of funds
forced complete suspension of activity. Only three permanent barbette
platforms had been constructed by that time. Of necessity, seven
temporary (wooden) platforms remained; on these, four “200 pounder”
Parrott rifles and two 15-inch Rodman smoothbores had been mounted. In a
modification of the original plan, 11 lower-tier gunrooms of the
original fort along the right face and about the salient had been
recovered and armed with “100 pounder” Parrotts. In a gradually
deteriorating state, these 17 guns constituted Fort Sumter’s armament
for the next 23 years.

[Illustration: Exterior, Fort Sumter, February 1865. The Gorge is at the
right; the Left Flank is at the left.]

From 1876 to 1898, Fort Sumter stood largely neglected, important mainly
as a lighthouse station. Ungarrisoned, most of that time it was in the
charge of a “fortkeeper” or an ordnance sergeant. Without proper funds
for maintenance, Fort Sumter, even then visited by thousands each year,
fell into a state of dilapidation. By 1887 the wooden platforms of the
barbette guns had rotted away so that “not one gun could be safely
fired”; the neat earth slopes had eroded into “irregular mounds”; and
quantities of sand had drifted into the parade ground. The casemate guns
rusted so that they could not be traversed; salt water dashed freely
through the open embrasures, the shutters of which were no longer in
working order.

The Spanish-American War, 1898, prompted the construction in 1899 of a
battery of two long-range rifled cannon at Fort Sumter. The massive
concrete emplacement for this battery (named for Isaac Huger, South
Carolinian, general in the American Revolution) dominates the central
portion of Fort Sumter today. The guns, long since outmoded, were
removed about 1941. During World War II, Fort Sumter was armed with
90-mm. antiaircraft guns manned by a garrison of Coast Artillery.

                          _Guide to the Area_

The following guide should be used with the map on pages 22 and 23.
Numbers on the map correspond to the numbers in the text below.

[Illustration: One of the 12-inch guns of Battery Huger, as mounted in

1. LEFT-FLANK EXTERIOR. Entrance to Fort Sumter is by way of a modern
sally port built through the center of the fort’s left flank. This sally
port, erected after the Civil War, replaced a gun embrasure. The two
13-inch mortars mounted outside this entry serve as the visitor’s
introduction to the ordnance now located at Fort Sumter. In 1863-65
Federal troops on Morris Island used this type of mortar against the
fort. A marker on the left flank near the sally port honors the
Confederate defenders of Fort Sumter.

2. LEFT-FLANK CASEMATES. The casemates (gunrooms) of the lower tier on
the left flank were surmounted by a second tier identical in appearance.
Above the second-tier casemates, guns were mounted _en barbette_ on an
open terreplein. This arrangement was also used on the fort’s right
flank and on its right and left faces. Each casemate contained one gun,
which could be moved on a track for crossfiring through the embrasure.
Fort Sumter was designed for an armament of 135 guns and a garrison of
650 men. There are now two guns mounted on the casemate carriages in the
left flank. The one on the left of the sally port is a rifled and banded
“42-pounder”; the one on the right is a 42-pound smoothbore. Shielded
(by the mass of the gorge) from Federal guns on Morris Island, 1863-65,
the left flank casemates were used as a Confederate headquarters and
hospital. The lower half of the outer wall retained its full height
until the end of the siege, but was leveled to approximately half its
original height during the 1870’s.

3. ENLISTED MEN’S BARRACKS. Inside and parallel to the left flank are
the ruins of an enlisted men’s barracks. This building, three stories
high, rose slightly above the fort walls. The first floor contained the
kitchen and mess facilities, with sleeping quarters on the two upper
floors. Another barracks for enlisted men, identical to this one, was
located on the right flank.

4. OFFICERS’ QUARTERS. Along the gorge (or back wall) was another
3-story brick building, the officers’ quarters. In addition to
furnishing lodging to the officers of Fort Sumter, this building also
housed the administrative offices, storerooms, powder magazines, and
jail. Most of the wooden parts of the building burned during the initial
Confederate bombardment. While the fort was in Confederate hands, many
of the rooms were filled with sand and bales of cotton to strengthen the

5. GARRISON MONUMENT. The U.S. Government erected this monument in 1932
“... in memory of the garrison defending Fort Sumter during the
bombardment April 12-14, 1861.” The roster of the original garrison is
listed on the tablet.

6. PARADE. In 1899, when Battery Huger was built in the center of the
ruins of Fort Sumter, the remainder of the fort was filled with sand to
strengthen it against guns of that period. In 1959 the National Park
Service completed excavations that uncovered the entire left side of
Fort Sumter down to the level of the original parade. Most of the fill
on the right side is still in place.

7. LEFT FACE. Union guns destroyed the arched brick casemates of the
left face during the Civil War. When Union gunners, firing on the gorge
of Fort Sumter from Morris Island, aimed too high, their projectiles
crossed the parade and struck the interior of the left face. Holes
caused by these reverse shots, and even shells themselves, are still
seen in the ruins of the left-face casemates. Just inside these
casemates are two 15-inch smoothbore Rodman guns. They were part of Fort
Sumter’s post-Civil War armament.

8. RIGHT FACE. Guns mounted on the lower tier of this face dueled with
Fort Moultrie in the initial attack, April 12-14, 1861. Since the angle
of the face allowed it to escape broadsides from Federal batteries on
Morris Island, its outer wall still stood almost at full height in
February 1865. After Fort Sumter was silenced in August 1863, the
Confederate garrison mounted three guns in the first-tier casemates just
above the right shoulder angle. This was the “Palmetto Battery,” called
thus because of the protective log cover raised on the exterior. For
several months this battery was the sole armament of the fort. All the
lower-tier casemates were reclaimed in the 1870’s and armed with
“100-pounder” Parrott rifled cannon. These guns, rusted and worn, were
buried with the casemates just before Battery Huger was constructed. To
open these casemates, parade-ground excavations were extended into this
part of the fort. Eleven 100-pound Parrott guns were uncovered and are
now displayed in this face.

9. THE FLAGPOLE MONUMENT. The Fort Sumter flagpole is a monument
honoring Major Anderson and his garrison. It was erected by Eba Anderson
Lawton, daughter of Major Anderson, and accepted by Congress on May 11,

10. MUSEUM. Exhibits in the Fort Sumter Museum graphically relate the
entire history of the fort. Informational literature and post cards can
be obtained at the information desk. The gunroom for the 12-inch
disappearing gun of Battery Huger was adapted to house the exhibits for
this museum, which was dedicated April 12, 1961.

11. ORIENTATION CIRCLE. This point atop Battery Huger is almost in the
center of old Fort Sumter. On either side are the 12-inch gun
emplacements of Battery Huger; the one toward the salient was converted
into the museum. The area stretching out from this point to the right
flank wall is earth fill, the height of which averages 20 feet above the
original parade ground. In the center of the orientation circle is a
model of Fort Sumter, oriented exactly with the fort.

12. RIGHT-GORGE ANGLE. From a gun in the first tier casemates, Capt.
Abner Doubleday fired the first shot from Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.
Also in this section of the fort occurred the deepest penetration of
Confederate shot and shell in the initial attack. In part, this was the
work of the Confederates’ rifled gun, the first one fired in action in

13. ESPLANADE. A 25½-foot-wide promenade and landing space once lined
the full length of the gorge exterior at its base. Out from the center
of the esplanade ran the original stone wharf, 171 feet long. Through
the gorge, at the head of the wharf, was the original sally port to the

[Illustration: 100-pound Parrott guns uncovered in 1959 excavations.]

[Illustration: Aerial view of Fort Sumter in January 1961.]


Fort Sumter National Monument was established by Congress in 1948 and
enlarged in 1961 with the acquisition of Fort Moultrie on Sullivans
Island. The monument is administered by the National Park Service, U.S.
Department of the Interior. Communications concerning the monument
should be addressed to the Superintendent, Fort Sumter National
Monument, U.S. Custom House, Charleston, S.C.

                            _Related Areas_

Other units of the National Park System pertaining to the Civil War are:
Antietam National Battlefield Site, Md.; Appomattox Court House National
Historical Park, Va.; Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site,
Miss.; Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Ga. and
Tenn.; Fort Donelson National Military Park, Tenn.; Fredericksburg and
Spotsylvania National Military Park, Va.; General Grant National
Memorial, N.Y.; Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa.; Harpers Ferry
National Monument, W. Va.; Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park,
Ga.; Manassas National Battlefield Park, Va.; Pea Ridge National
Military Park, Ark.; Petersburg National Military Park, Va.; Richmond
National Battlefield Park, Va.; Shiloh National Military Park, Tenn.;
Stones River National Battlefield, Tenn.; and Vicksburg National
Military Park, Miss.

                          _Suggested Readings_

  Catton, Bruce, _The Coming Fury_. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, 1961.

  Chesnut, Mary B., _A Diary From Dixie_. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston,

  Johnson, Robert U., & Clarence C. Buel, editors, _Battles and Leaders
  of the Civil War_. Reprint edition by Thomas Yoseloff, Inc., New York,
  1956. Vols. I and IV.

  Stampp, Kenneth M., _And The War Came_. Louisiana State University
  Press, Baton Rouge, 1950.

  Swanberg, W. A., _First Blood_. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York,

  United States Government, _War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the
  Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies_. U.S. Government
  Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1880. Series I, vols. I, XIV,

                         U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1954 O 727-779

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                       HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES

     (Price lists of National Park Service publications sold by the
 Government Printing Office can be obtained from the Superintendent of
                    Documents, Washington 25, D.C.)

  Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefields
  Custer Battlefield
  Custis-Lee Mansion, the Robert E. Lee Memorial
  Fort Laramie
  Fort McHenry
  Fort Necessity
  Fort Pulaski
  Fort Raleigh
  Fort Sumter
  Fort Union
  George Washington Birthplace
  Guilford Courthouse
  Hopewell Village
  Jamestown, Virginia
  Kings Mountain
  The Lincoln Museum and the House Where Lincoln Died
  Manassas (Bull Run)
  Montezuma Castle
  Morristown, A Military Capital of the Revolution
  Petersburg Battlefields
  Richmond Battlefields
  Scotts Bluff
  Statue of Liberty
  Vanderbilt Mansion
  Wright Brothers

[Illustration: SIDE-POSTERN TODAY]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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