The guns of Fort Sumter remained silent for nearly two years. The
Union army established outposts on the Carolina coast throughout the
rest of 1861, and by the summer of 1862 their forces had begun to
threaten Charleston from the south, but until the spring of 1863 the
harbor lay unmolested.
On April 6, 1863, a fleet of Federal ironclad monitors crossed the bar
into the main ship channel. Under the direction of Admiral Samuel F. Du
Pont, nine of them steamed toward Fort Sumter early on the afternoon of
April 7, their hulls awash in the water so their turrets appeared to
float independently. Those turrets housed twenty-three guns that threw
projectiles as large as fifteen inches in diameter.
Ignoring gunfire from Fort Moultrie and other batteries on Sullivan's
Island, the ironclads began battering at Sumter, which was defended by
about 550 men of the First Smith Carolina Artillery, under Colonel
Alfred Rhett. When Rhett saw them coming, he ordered the new Confederate
garrison flaga large white sheet with the crossed bars of the
battle flag as the unionrun up the main pole at the northern
salient; at the western gorge angle he sent up South Carolina's palmetto
flag, and from the eastern gorge angle fluttered his regimental
At a distance of about three-quarters of a mile the fleet began a
slow barrage of the fort, which replied at a much faster rate from
thirty-seven guns and seven mortars. In the entire engagement the
ironclads threw a total of only 139 rounds, of which 55 struck Sumter.
The fort returned 831 rounds, while surrounding batteries added another
THE FEDERAL IRONCLAD FLEET ATTACKS FORT SUMTER IN APRIL 1863.
PLANS OF THE FEDERAL IRONCLAD KEOKUK. (COPYRIGHT, COLLECTION OF
THE NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY)|
The deadliest fire came from Sumter, however. The double-turreted
ironclad Keokuk ran in closer that any of her sister ships,
coming head-on and using only the 11-inch Dahlgren gun in the forward
turret, and this vessel suffered the worst of any. Commander Alexander
C. Rhind reported that the Keokuk was struck ninety times and
pierced nineteen times. This ship finally pulled away, riddled and
sinking, while Sumter's guns turned on the Nahant, which also
steamed away disabled.
Three more ironclads were seriously damaged before Du Pont signaled a
retreat, and the Keokuk sank the next day, so close to Morris
Island that Confederates were able to salvage the two Dahlgren guns and
put them in battery against the Union navy. Only one man inside Sumter
was seriously wounded, a soldier in Fort Moultrie was killed when the
flagstaff was shot down and struck him, and a quartermaster on the
Nahant died from his wounds. The accidental explosion of
artillery cartridges again caused the greatest loss of life, killing
three Confederates in Battery Wagner, a new fortification built as an
outpost to Fort Sumter on Morris Island, to keep the enemy from reaching
The naval bombardment of April did some damage, despite its overall
failure. One hole had been breached on the seaward face, and ten yards
or more of the parapet wall had been cracked and loosened. Over the
spring and summer the garrison strengthened the fort with sandbags,
especially along the gorge wall and in the casemates that faced Morris
Island. The upper magazines were emptied of powder and partly filled
with sand, to protect those below it.
FEDERAL WORKERS DIGGING TRENCHES TOWARD BATTERY WAGNER. (LC)|
On July 10 the Federals moved a brigade of infantry against Wagner
and launched an unsuccessful attack the next day. A week later the
Union commander, Brigadier General Quincy Gillmore, tried again with a
larger force, including the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, the first black
troops employed against Charleston. That assault also failed, with more
than 1,500 Union casualties.
On August 17 these guns opened a
deliberate fire on Sumter that continued for a solid week.
Unable to reach the vantage of Cummings Point, Gillmore instead dug
successive trench lines as close to Wagner as he could, bringing in huge
Parrott rifles that could reach beyond Wagner to strike the fort. On
August 17 these guns opened a deliberate fire on Sumter that continued
for a solid week.
Over five thousand rounds were fired at Sumter during the August
barrage, almost half of which struck the bastion. Three of the garrison
had been killed and forty-four wounded, plus five slaves who were
working on the fortifications. The entire wall around the barbette tier
was leveled, and all those big guns were exposed to the full view of
Union telescopes. Nearly 150 tons of metal shattered the casemates on
all sides. When the bombardment stopped on August 23, Fort Sumter had
fallen silent. The parade was littered with rubble from the crumbling
walls, and only three guns remained serviceable. two of which sat on the
exposed parapet and could not be manned safely.
Over the next few days the big guns were pulled out of Sumter for use
in other batteries around the harbor. The garrison was diminished
accordingly, to about three hundred infantry. Major Stephen Elliott,
Jr., replaced Colonel Rhett in command on the night of September 4. Fort
Sumter had been reduced to a mere symbol again, but this time for the
other flag. Elliott's principal duty consisted of raising the
Confederate banner each morning and defending the remains of the fort so
the ceremony could continue.
For the Union assailants, Sumter remained just as great a symbol. As
soon as the Confederates abandoned Battery Wagner (and Battery Gregg, at
the tip of Cummings Point) on the night of September 6 and 7, the
commanders of both the land and naval forces independently planned boat
assaults on the fort. General Gillmore gave up his own plans when he
learned that Admiral John Dahlgren had issued orders to the captains of
his numerous ships, which bobbed at anchor just outside the harbor; on
the night of September 8 some four hundred sailors and marines rowed
toward the battered northeastern and southeastern faces of Sumter,
supposing they would meet nothing more than "a corporal's guard."
SOME OF THE GUNS IN BATTERY STEVENS ON MORRIS ISLAND THAT POUNDED AWAY
AT FORT SUMTER. (LC)|
PHOTOGGAPH OF FORT SUMTER TAKEN ON AUGUST 23, 1863. (USAMHI)|
Major Elliott had been expecting them. A hundred of his men were
awake on the ramparts at midnight, under arms and with improvised hand
grenades lying nearby, and the remaining two hundred were rousted from
their beds in time to meet the assault. The attackers landed just after
1:00 A.M. Elliott's garrison, composed at that time of the Charleston
Battalion, let fly with musketry, hand-thrown shells, bricks, and pieces
of stone, while the gun boat Chicora and batteries on Sullivan's
Island and in Fort Johnson pitched in to drive the boats away.
Two-thirds of the amphibious force escaped, but nearly two dozen of them
were killed or wounded and more than a hundred were captured on the face
of the fort, where they had taken cover in the nibble. No Confederates
The trophies included five Union flags, one of which was a tattered
old garrison flag which survivors claimed to have been the one Major
Anderson had taken home with him in 1861. No Union reports mention
losing the original Sumter flag, however, and Anderson reportedly still
retained the old banner that he had first carried into Sumter from Fort
Even as the prisoners were being ferried back to Charleston, George
Cook entered the fort again with his photographic apparatus. This time
he captured the destruction wrought by weeks of Union bombardment, and
at one point he climbed the parapet to secure an image of the ironclads
that lay off the fort, lobbing shells at him. Inside, he set his camera
up on the parade and tripped his shutter just as a shell from the
Weehawken exploded on the parade ground.
Monitors like the Weehawken, which fired eighty-two
rounds at Sumter on September 8, were collaborating with the army in an
effort to pound the fort into submission, if it could not be recaptured.
With Federal forces in firm control of Morris Island, Fort Sumter was
now subjected to intense hammering by heavy-caliber rifled guns. At
first the fire came slowly, at a rate of about a hundred rounds per day
from the land batteries, but late in October Gillmore drastically
increased the pressure, doubling his volume of fire on October 26
quadrupling that on October 27 and 28, and from October 30 until
November 1 the Federals pounded the silent fort with more than a
thousand shells and solid shot each day, missing very seldom.
For the rest of November the
intensity of the barrage barely subsided, and now the shelling began to
inflict significant casualties inside Sumter.
For the rest of November the intensity of the barrage barely
subsided, and now the shelling began to inflict significant casualties
inside Sumter. Elliott's first man fell at his post on October 29. Six
more men were wounded that day and three the next. At 3:00 A.M. on
October 31 one round struck an iron girder that attached the old
barracks to the outside wall causing the barracks to collapse; troops
lay under arms there, as they usually did when a night assault was
anticipated, and thirteen of them were buried alive. Two Georgia
privates were killed by a mortar shell later that same day, and four
were seriously wounded. A man was killed by a mortar shell on November
2, and seven were wounded over the next three days. On November 6 a
mortar shell exploded inside a casemate, wounding fifteen men, of whom
The list of killed and wounded grew steadily though more slowly
thereafter. Troops were relieved weekly, and only a few officers like
Elliott remained inside the fort constantly. By the middle of November
the Confederate flag billowed above what appeared to be a hastily
Another flotilla of boats moved toward Sumter after the moon set in
the wee hours of November 20, 1863. A handful of barges filled with
soldiers came with in three hundred yards of the fort, merely to test
the strength of the garrison. After a few moments' exchange of musketry,
the barges returned to James Island, bringing back two wounded men and
an estimate that Sumter still had two hundred defenders, despite the
Slaves were brought in to rebuild the walls with sandbags and gabions
(woven barrels filled with earth), but they and the officers who
supervised them suffered from the exposed nature of their work. Four of
the blacks were killed by shells or debris between November 21 and 25,
while another lost a leg and one was wounded in the shoulder. A South
Carolina captain whose services Major Elliott had specifically requested
was mortally injured on the afternoon of November 24 while brazenly
inspecting the infantry obstructions near the foot of the seaward
THE SEPTEMBER 8, 1863, PHOTO BY GEORGE COOK TAKEN INSIDE FORT SUMTER.
A SOLDIER LOOKS OUT AT THE FEDERAL BLOCKADE IN THIS CONRAD WISE CHAPMAN
PAINTING, THE FLAG OF SUMTER. (MC)|
A 300-POUND PARROTT RIFLE AT BATTERY STRONG ON MORRIS ISLAND. (USAMHI)|
One of the deadliest explosions at Fort Sumter came, like so many in
this war, from accidental causes. Most of the powder had been removed
from the fort, save for about 150 pounds of small-arms ammunition, and
that remainder was stored in the lower western magazine, along with
other supplies. On the morning of December 11 Captain Edward Frost, the
acting commissary of the post, was using the interior of the magazine to
distribute rations when, probably, a spark from his lantern ignited some
loose powder. No one ever determined what actually caused the explosion,
but it rocked the artificial little island like an earthquake.
Most of the garrison, and particularly the officer's, had just gone
to sleep after another watchful night. Elliott arose from his sleeping
chamber in one of the lower casemates on the northwest flank and made
his way to the magazine, which still lay perfectly dark in the winter
morning light. He and the officer behind him soon found themselves
tripping over dead bodies. Once these had been dragged away, they
reentered the magazine, where an intense fire consumed what remained of
the fort's provisions. Somewhere in there, never to be recovered, were
the remains of Captain Frost and the men who had been helping him dole
out the rations.
Eleven men were killed, including Frost. Another forty-one were
wounded, among them Elliott, who was struck in the head by a piece of
shell when the Union artillery took advantage of the confusion. A
hundred men, ammunition, and provisions were sent over from Fort Johnson
after nightfall, but once the crisis passed Elliott asked to have his
garrison reduced to the two hundred who occupied the fort before the
Fort Sumter no longer played a practical role in the defense of
Charleston Harbor. After August 1863 Fort Moultrie, the other batteries
on Sullivan's Island, and Fort Johnson would have been more instrumental
in stopping any naval incursion into Charleston, although they had been
auxiliary to the keystone of Sumter in the original design of the U.S.
Army engineers. To augment the defense of the city, South Carolinians
depended on a wide assortment of inventive naval weapons, from
submersible mines to low-profile rams and the first practical
Mines had been suspended all over the harbor. Admiral Du Pont's
flagship, the New Ironsides, lay directly over one for two hours
during the ironclad incursion of April 1863, but it failed to detonate.
The ironclad Patapsco succumbed to another mine on the night of
January 15, 1865, drowning sixty-two of its crew in five fathoms of
water only seven hundred yards from Fort Sumter.
On October 5, 1863, the New Ironsides was rocked, but not sunk,
by the explosion of a spar-mounted torpedo that was rammed into its side
by a little cigar-shaped steamer called the David. With a
four-man crew, the David was almost entirely submerged. The
explosion doused the ram's fires: it appeared to be going down with its
intended victim, so her commander and one sailor abandoned ship and were
picked up by the Federals, but the David's engineer and pilot got
the cumbersome contraption moving again and brought it back to the
The first true submarine, however, glided past Fort Sumter one night
in the middle of December 1863, towed by the David. This was the
H. L. Hunley, named for her builder, Horace L. Hunley. The
submarine consisted of a couple of boilers, joined at the ends and tapered
fore and aft. Estimates of its length ranged from twenty to thirty-five
feet or more; it was judged to be about five feet high and nearly as
wide. The Hunley's propulsion, when not under tow, consisted of a
propeller turned by a hand crank.
Though this was the first submarine to successfully destroy an enemy
vessel, the Hunley killed far more Confederates than Federals.
Built at a Mobile machine shop, the craft was transported to Charleston
by rail, in two sections. There it was put under the command of
Lieutenant John A. Payne, of the Confederate States Navy. By the autumn
of 1863 the vessel had sunk at least twice during trial runs, drowning
several volunteers, and Lieutenant Payne was finally relieved of that
duty. The builder then arrived from Mobile with Lieutenant George F.
Dixon of the Twenty-first Alabama Infantry and another seven-man crew.
In an attempt to demonstrate the correct use of his submarine, Hunley
and his seven men also drowned in a test dive on October 15, 1863.
SAILORS ON THE DECK OF THE USS PATAPSCO. NOTICE THE DENTS IN THE
A PAINTING BY CONRAD WISE CHAPMAN OF THE CONFEDERATE SUBMARINE H. L.
CUTAWAY ILLUSTRATION OF THE H. L. HUNLEY. (U.S. NAVAL HISTORICAL
The Hunley was dragged up from nine fathoms again and the
bodies were pulled from the hatches. Lieutenant Dixon found still more
volunteers among the Charleston garrison, and with this crew he
successfully submerged and raised the vessel on several occasions. In
December Dixon was directed to proceed out of the harbor to do what
damage he could to the Union blockading fleet. Instead he nearly
exploded his own ship and the tow vessel when the Hunley's
torpedo, suspended from a prow-mounted spar, became fouled with the
David's propeller. The naval commander thereafter refused to tow
the Hunley, which was under the direction of the army.
In February 1864 the ill-fated submarine was docked off Battery
Marshall, on the extreme eastern end of Sullivan's Island. On the
evening of February 17 Lieutenant Dixon and eight men crawled into the
cramped compartment and turned south-southeast, where, two miles away,
lay the USS Housatonic. At 8:45 that night the Hunley
slammed into the eleven-gun steam sloop, exploding its torpedo under the
stern quarter. The Housatonic broke apart and sank almost
immediately, taking down five officers and men. The rest of the Union
crew was rescued by boats from other vessels.
The Hunley was never heard from again. Within a few days, the
Confederates in Charleston determined that the hunter had gone down
with its prey. (In May 1995 the remains of the makeshift submarine were
discovered in the waters off Charleston, and a committee of historians
and underwater archaeologists are determining the feasibility of raising
While such daring efforts annoyed the Union fleet, soldiers and
slaves inside the remains of Fort Sumter worked daily to repair the
walls and prepare for the amphibious assault they anticipated almost
every night. Except for the lower portions of the sides facing
Charleston, Sumter's brick walls had all been disintegrated or covered
with debris, both inside and outside, by 1864. The masonry fragments
and sandy filling had been shoveled back into place and backed by
gabions: to supply the materials, the defenders had dug four or five
feet deep into the parade. The endless bombardments and natural erosion
steadily ate away at the remaining berm, however, and the quartermaster
boats from Charleston were soon asked to bring out a thousand filled
sandbags at night to buttress the parapet.
AN AERIAL VIEW OF CHARLESTON HARBOR. FORT SUMTER IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE
HARBOR (#10). (HP)|
The fort's walls had shrunk to half their original height, and now
they sloped gradually rather than towering upright, rendering the place
much more vulnerable to investment by an armed enemy. To counter these
disadvantages, each night the garrison set out infantry obstructions
called fraise, consisting of portable sections of sharpened stakes
fastened into the earthen slope. These cumbersome forerunners of
concertina wire were meant to slow any attackers long enough for those
inside the fort to level another volley or two at them before they
reached the interior.
Once they had gained the interior, any assailants would have faced
barricades, constructed of logs and sandbags, behind which lay light
artillery to trace the line of riflemen. If the attacking force proved
too strong for the Confederates, they could retreat into the casemates
and bombproofs behind those barricades while the rest of the batteries
around the harbor smothered the fort in heavy ordnance.
Thus protected, the fort sat defiantly in plain sight of the
Federals, if somewhat lower on the horizon. At dusk each evening a
single gun barked a little salute to the Confederate flag as it was
lowered from the staff that Union shells had so frequently snapped. At
noon on April 13, 1864, Colonel Elliott fired that gun thirteen times,
in recognition of the capture of the fort three years earlier. The
display inspired a flurry of retaliatory projectiles from the enemy, one
of which killed a soldier in the signal detachment.
AN INTERIOR VIEW OF FORT SUMTER MADE AFTER THE WAR. (LC)|
A NOVEMBER 1864 PHOTOGRAPH OF THE MORRIS ISLAND ORDNANCE YARD. (USAMHI)|
In May, Colonel Elliott left Sumter to serve in Virginia. He was
replaced by Captain John C. Mitchel, of the First South Carolina
Artillery. Not long after Mitchel took over, the Union commander was
replaced by someone who had known Fort Sumter intimately: John G.
Foster, now a major general commanding the entire Federal Department of
Foster visited Morris Island early in June. He decided the fort was
still defensible and should be demolished entirely. After a boat assault
on Fort Johnson failed, Foster ordered the Sumter barrage resumed on
July 7. It continued for eight weeks, during which nearly fifteen
thousand projectiles fell on, in, or near the fort. Foster intended to
maintain so constant a fire that repair would be impossible; but the
Confederates did much of their work at night. The Federals also aimed at
the log booms that protected the base of the fort from boat attacks,
intending to launch explosive-laden barges against the bastion, but two
such torpedo craft exploded without doing any damage at all.
Captain Mitchel was among the first of a dozen mensoldiers and
slaveswho were killed in this bombardment. At 1:00 o'clock on the
afternoon of July 20 he was standing on the southwestern angle of the
fort (the highest elevation that remained), inspecting the Union
batteries with a telescope. A piece of shell pierced him below the hip,
and he died four hours later.
Mitchel was replaced by Captain Thomas A. Huguenin, of the First
South Carolina Infantry, who arrived that evening. He found the garrison
in fair morale, despite the 174 rifle and mortar rounds that had slammed
into the fort since dawn. Besides Captain Mitchel, one slave was killed
that day and seven wounded, as well as a South Carolina private.
Until this barrage subsided, early in September, ten more men were
killed and thirty-seven wounded, the vast majority of them slaves. The
blacks' construction duties exposed them dangerously, and they suffered
disporportionately compared to the white soldiers.
Until this barrage subsided, early in September, ten more men were
killed and thirty-seven wounded, the vast majority of them slaves. The
blacks' construction duties exposed them dangerously, and they suffered
disproportionately compared to the white soldiers. On September 4 the
Confederate garrison numbered 195 officers and men, excluding Captain
Huguenin and his staff, while the black labor force amounted to 120.
Although they constituted less than 40 percent of the garrison, the
slaves absorbed 71 percent of the casualties between July 20 and
September 16. Only one of the dozen men killed during that period was
white. The last blood was drawn inside Fort Sumter on September 16, when
a relatively light total of thirty rounds hit the fort. One shell seems
to have done all the damage, severely wounding Private J. C. Ray, of the
Thirty-Second Georgia, in the leg. Captain Huguenin's report for
September 16 also notes "two Negroes killed" and three wounded, none of
whom was identified by name.
Partly because of a shortage of ammunition, Union guns let up on Fort
Sumter after September, instead turning their attention to other
targets. Confederates inside Sumter began returning fire about that
time, albeit with nothing heavier than telescopic sharpshooters' rifles.
The commander on Morris Island complained of their sniping as early as
September 27, and the sharpshooters continued to harass Federal soldiers
until the end of the year.
CONFEDERATE GUN CREWS AT BATTERY SIMKINS VOLLEY WITH FEDERAL ARTILLERY
ON MORRIS ISLAND. PAINTING BY CONRAD WISE CHAPMAN. (MC)|
THE 200-POUNDER PARROT RIFLE DUBBED THE "SWAMP ANGEL" FIRED SHELLS ITO
THE CITY OF CHARLESTON. (LC)|
They did minimal damage, however. Like the single guns Major Anderson
had fired during the last hours of the 1861 bombardment, the
sharpshooters struck little more than a note of defiance.
Captain Huguenin spent 212 days in Fort Sumter, but the movement of
William T. Sherman's Union army through South Carolina finally forced
him out. On February 17, 1865the anniversary of the night the
H. L. Hunley sank the Housatonicthe Confederate
garrison quietly slipped out of the fort and made its way to the
mainland, to join Joseph Johnston's army for the final struggle in North
FORT SUMTER'S UNION GARRISON AFTER APRIL 12-13, 1861
By the time Major Robert Anderson, the officers, men of Batteries E
and H, and the band of the First U.S. Artillery arrived at Fort Hamilton
in New York Harbor on April 19, 1861, they had become heroes. Not long
afterward the officers and men who had endured so much together inside
Fort Sumter were reassigned to fight for the preservation of the Union.
The band, however, spent the duration of the war on garrison duty in the
In June 1861, Batteries F and H were assigned to General Robert
Patterson's forces, near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and later that
year both units moved to Washington, D.C. There they were issued field
cannon and, in 1862, were assigned to the Army of the Potomac. During
this time Battery E was combined with Battery G and the two units served
through the rest of the war as Battery E-G.
During the Peninsula campaign both Batteries E-G and H saw
combatBattery H in the May 5 battle of Williamsburg, Battery E-G
in the June 30 battle of Glendale. Although both batteries were on the
field at Malvern Hill on July 1, apparently neither saw any action.
At the end of the campaign both units were withdrawn. Battery E-G
was assigned to General John Pope's command and was under enemy fire on
August 30 during the second Manassas campaign, while Battery H was
assigned to the defenses of the nations capital.
Following the battle of second Manassas, General Robert E. Lee moved
his army north into Maryland. Both batteries moved with the Union army
and at Antietam, Battery E-G was briefly engaged; Battery H saw no
action. By early December the armies faced each other at Fredericksburg,
Virginia, where in the December 13 battle, although both batteries were
again on the field, only Battery E-G saw limited action.
In May 1863 at Chancellorsville, two of Battery E-G's guns fired
briefly on General "Stonewall" Jackson's column as it marched around the
Federal right to launch one of the war's greatest attacks. Later that
day the battery was ordered to the left end of the Union line, where it
experienced no further action. Battery H, stationed in the vicinity of
the Chancellor House, formed part of the Federal line that finally
stopped Jackson's May 2 flank attack. It was also involved in the
fighting the next day.
After the battle, Battery E-G was converted to horse artillery and
began serving with the cavalry. During the Gettysburg campaign the unit
was engaged in several actions leading up to and after the battle. On
July 3, Battery E-G participated in the cavalry battle that took place
behind the Union army during Pickett's charge. Battery H, which had been
held in reserve until July 2, was called into line on Cemetery Hill.
There it dueled with Confederate guns and was intermittently under enemy
fire during the rest of the battle.
After Gettysburg neither battery saw combat until 1864. In April of
that year Battery H was consolidated with Battery I, First U.S.
Artillery, and became Battery H-I. When fighting was renewed in May
1864, both Batteries E-G and H-I were with the Army of the Potomac but
did not participate in the battles of the Wilderness or Spotsylvania
Court House. Later that month and in June, however, Battery E-G saw
action in the fighting along the North Anna River.
The engagement at the North Anna marked Battery E-G's last action.
It's numbers greatly reduced by hard campaigning, the unit was ordered
to Washington, "dismounted," and spent the rest of the war on garrison
around the city.
Moving with Federal cavalry in June 1864, Battery H-I fought at Cold
Harbor, Bottoms Bridge, and in the battle of Trevillan's Station. The
battery also participated in various actions during the siege of
Petersburg, and at war's end the unit was ordered to Washington,
From Fort Sumter in April 1861 to the fall of Petersburg, in April
1865, Battery E and/or Battery H, First U.S. Artillery participated in
some of the Civil War's most significant battles and campaigns.
In September 1865, both Batteries E-G and H-I were restored to their
status as independent units, and Battery H was "dismounted." Batteries F
and H were assigned, respectively, to Fort Stevens and Fort Slocum in
the defenses of the nation's capital. January 1866 saw both batteries
stationed in the defenses of New York Harbor. back to the routine of
peacetime garrison duty.
From Fort Sumter in April 1861 to the fall of Petersburg, Virginia,
in April 1865, Battery E and/or Battery H, First U.S. Artillery,
participated in some of the Civil War's most significant battles and
campaigns. From manning the heavy guns of Fort Sumter, to moving with
the Army of the Potomac as mounted or horse artillery, and then back to
garrison duty, both units proudly served their branch of service, the
army, and nation.
Richard W. Hatcher III
Early on the morning of February 18 Lieutenant Colonel Augustus G.
Bennett, of the Twenty-first U.S. Colored Infantry, sent a boat toward
Sumter upon learning that the enemy might have evacuated. Just short of
the fort, his boat encountered some Confederate bandsmen from Fort
Moultrie whom the Confederates had forgotten to notify, and they
confirmed that Charleston was undefended. Bennett sent a Pennsylvania
major, John A. Hennessy, to raise the new thirty-five-star U.S. flag on
Fort Sumter, and at 9:00 A.M. Hennessy ran the flag up the staff on the
southeast angle of the battered parapet.
Major General Robert Anderson was at his home, 32 West Ninth Street,
in New York City, when a telegram arrived inviting him to Washington to
meet the secretary of war. It was the secretary's wish that the general
would proceed to Charleston Harbor to raise his treasured old garrison
flag over Fort Sumter once again, in a ceremony scheduled for the fourth
anniversary of his departure from that place. Anderson replied that he
would be delighted, his fragile health notwithstanding. He asked for an
invitation for his old sergeant, Peter Hart, who had resurrected the
banner when Confederate fire shot it down, and the War Department
When Anderson arrived in Charleston he found another telegram waiting
for him. General Sherman, then pursuing the enemy's last major army in
North Carolina, congratulated Anderson on his return to the city where
they had last bid each other good-bye, as a captain and a lieutenant,
early in the Mexican War. On the evening of April 13 Charleston learned
that Robert E. Lee had surrendered his army, which gave the following
day's ceremony an even more jubilant tone.
THE FLAGPOLE ON THE RIGHT ENABLED THE STARS AND STRIPES TO FLY AGAIN
OVER FORT SUMTER. (LC)|
The engineers had buried an immense flagpole in the center of
Sumter's blasted parade, around which they built a platform with plank
seating. A bower bedecked in bunting and evergreen boughs stood nearby.
A couple of hundred dignitaries, soldiers, sailors, and citizens circled
around the guest of honor, who was accompanied by Peter Hart and some of
the other men who played a part in the drama of four years before. Among
those men was Chaplain Harris, who had attended the first flag-raising
inside Fort Sumter on that cold, grim day after Christmas.
The crowd remembered his speech as conciliatory toward the
conquered South and filled with sentiments of national
Harris opened the ceremony with a prayer. Reverend Richard Storrs
followed with a benediction, and at the stroke of noon General Anderson
pulled his flag up the halyards. Guns spoke from all over the harbor,
including the stout ram parts of ruined Sumter, while the crowd cheered
long and hard.
Then came the renowned Henry Ward Beecher, fervent abolitionist and
spellbinding speaker. The crowd remembered his speech as conciliatory
toward the conquered South and filled with sentiments of national
brotherhood. He closed with a blessing for President Abraham Lincoln,
whom he congratulated upon living to see the glorious reunification of
THE FEDERAL FLEET TAKES PART IN THE CELEBRATION. (LC)|
Less than twenty-four hours after the ironic conclusion to Beecher's
speech, the president would be dead. Fort Sumter might have been
transformed from a symbol of rebellion into one of reunion, but
Lincoln's assassination assured that reconciliation would have to wait
for another generation.