Part XXVIII

Charleston And Fort Sumter In 1864.

       Charleston had also received the attention of the Federal government while plans were made against Richmond and Atlanta. It was already distinguished by the failure of repeated attempts to take it, and deserves some connected mention at this juncture of Confederate affairs. Doubtless the early capture of that city would have very greatly gratified all those in the United States who regarded it as the originator of secession. The capture of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, by the Confederates, was apparently easily accomplished, but the defense of the same spot by them was so heroic and skillful that it was never taken by force from its captors. The battles of Secessionville in June, and of Pocotaligo in October, 1862, were won in South Carolina's defense. The blockade of the port was made strong by the presence of a formidable fleet, but blockaders still came in and the fleet was often disturbed. In January, 1863, the Confederate ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora, in the harbor, boldly attacked the whole Federal wooden fleet, capturing the Mercedita and the Keystone State. The other Federal vessels steamed out to sea, leaving the harbor open for a day and night. Masked batteries opened on the Federal gunboat in the Stono river and cutting off retreat, compelled surrender. A squadron of eight ironclads was finally sent to subdue Sumter and capture Charleston. These powerful vessels, armed with guns of heavy caliber, steamed into position April 7, 1863, and opening fire on Sumter received such response from the fort and the batteries as to cause the withdrawal of the fleet, with many of the ships injured and one of them destroyed. A few months later a Federal landing was made on Morris island, and Battery Wagner was furiously bombarded, July 11th, by the fleet and batteries, followed by General Seymour's assault which General Taliaferro repulsed, causing Seymour a loss of over 1,500 men. Near the same date Sumter endured a seven days' bombardment, which tore down its walls in a mass of ruins, but Beauregard, again commanding at Charleston, erected interior defenses and still held the ruined fort. It became necessary for the Confederates to withdraw from Fort Gregg, Battery Wagner and Morris island, and yet they held the mass of Sumter's ruins and defended Charleston. Both the fort and the city were in the possession of the Confederates when Grant marched in May, 1864, to overthrow Lee, and Sherman moved against Johnston. After the first terrible bombardment which reduced the fort to ruins, the Confederate engineers and soldiers converted the debris into an earthwork of such strength that it bore bombardment through all the campaigns of Grant and Sherman. It stood as the invincible protector of South Carolina's harbor through a year and a half of Federal attack, endured "for a hundred days and nights their utmost power," and resisting all efforts to take away its crown by force, the old work saw with defiance the army of Sherman pass by in 1865 toward Columbia. The brave fort and gallant city were first in the war and last in the surrender.

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