Report of Brig. Gen. James Simons of operations against Fort Sumter.
OPERATIONS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR, S.C.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 1 [S# 1] CHAPTER I
HEADQUARTERS, MORRIS ISLAND, April 23, 1861.
Commanding Provisional Forces C. S., Charleston.
GENERAL: I have the honor respectfully to inform you that report of Lieutenant-Colonel De Saussure, commanding the battalion of artillery, with the reports of commanders of batteries at this post of the late action of the 12th and 13th instants with Fort Sumter, have this moment been handed to me, and as you are already apprised of my communication of yesterday to Assist. Adjt. Gen. D. R. Jones, this will furnish the reason for my delaying the present address. I have little to add to the minute and circumstantial detail which has been so carefully and minutely furnished by these officers. I add my confirmation to the commendation of the coolness, perseverance, and steady zeal of all those who were actively engaged in the action, to whom particular as well as general reference has been made in those reports.
The firing commenced on the signal designated in your General Orders No. 14, section 4, of date the 11th instant, and conformed substantially to the requisitions of General Orders No. 9, of date the 6th instant, both as regards the objects, and the times and the intervals of firing, and the only departure from the rigid compliance with those orders was done by my orders at 11.10 a.m. on the 13th instant, by which, through Colonel Wigfall, whom you had sent to me as a special aid the night before the engagement, I authorized battery commanders to increase the frequency of their fire, but with express directions that the fire should not be so frequent as to waste ammunition. This was continued until 1.30 p.m., when the flag of Fort Sumter fell, but whether by fire or by a ball from our batteries did not then appear. It was certain the colors were not hauled down. I became certain afterwards, on a visit to Fort Sumter, that the flagstaff was shot away, for it bore the marks of many bars. Only two shots were fired from our batteries on this island after the flag fell. I suspended the firing, however, and on a consultation with Ex-Governor Manning, Colonel Chesnut, and Colonel Wigfall, members of your staff, I sent Colonel Wigfall, accompanied by Private Gourdin Young, of Palmetto Guard, with a white flag to Fort Sumter to inform Major Anderson that I observed his flag was down, and to inquire whether he would surrender to you. Colonel Wigfall, with great gallantry and his accustomed indifference to danger, accompanied as I have mentioned, proceeded in a boat in the midst of the continued fire from our batteries other than at this island. Before he reached Fort Sumter I distinctly saw the flag of Fort Sumter flying on the northeast corner of the fortress, but very much masked by the gable of the quarters and the smoke and flame. It was too late to recall Colonel Wigfall, and he accomplished his mission. Soon after he reached the fortress a white flag was substituted for that lately put up, and the firing ceased on both sides. The firing of Fort Sumter had continued after the flag had fallen.
At 2.15 p.m. Colonel Wigfall returned and announced that Major Anderson surrendered unconditionally to Brigadier-General Beauregard, of the C. S. Army. The announcement was received with the greatest enthusiasm, and Colonel Wigfall and Private Young were borne from the boat in triumph by the troops. Colonel Wigfall, accompanied by Ex-Governor Manning, Colonel Chesnut, and Captain Chisolm of your staff, then proceeded to report to you.
In the afternoon, before sundown, a boat from the fleet was brought to by a shot from Lieutenant-Colonel Lamar's battery, and landed Lieutenant Marcy, U. S. Navy. He asked me if I would give him permission to go to Fort Moultrie to inquire whether Major Anderson had surrendered, and whether he and his command could be taken out of the harbor by a vessel of the fleet, or a merchant vessel with them, or by their boats. I replied that so far as it was necessary to 'go to Fort Moultrie to learn whether Major Anderson had surrendered, I could, and did, give him the information, and so far as the removal of Major Anderson's command out of the harbor was concerned, we could furnish the requisite transportation, but that the commanding general of our army was at hand, and that he would be communicated with, and that Lieutenant Marcy could have the answer at 9 a.m. the next day, at the same place. I sent Capt. Ben. Allston to you before dark with a dispatch to this effect, under the signature of Major Whiting. Subsequent events were managed by yourself or under your direction and control.
Besides the batteries actively engaged in the action, I cannot too highly commend the other batteries on the channel. The untiring zeal, watchfulness, and eagerness of the officers and men of the commands to participate in the defense of their country must fill the hearts of their fellow-citizens with the liveliest emotions of gratitude and pride.
I felt constrained to refuse permission to Capt. A. J. Green, of Columbia Artillery, and his gallant corps to open fire on Fort Sumter, although he solicited permission to participate in the contest. Whilst the credit of the battle will necessarily be more permanently associated with those who managed the instruments of warfare, I cannot conclude this report without inviting your attention to the infantry. In the midst of the greatest exposure to the most inclement weather, many hundreds bivouacking in the open air without any covering, many more sheltered by wide burrows in the sand hills, not a murmur of complaint escaped during the thirty-three hours of the conflict; but with steady gaze on the fleet, which was ranged outside the harbor, plainly visible to the naked eye, they were ready to resist any hostile demonstration and repulse the invader, whilst their brave comrades of the batteries were engaged in driving the enemy from his strong fortress in our harbor. Commendation from one like myself, entitled from my education and training to no military consideration, is only valuable because it is honest and sincere.
In this sense you will permit me, general, to thank you for the assistants which your wisdom and kindness assigned to aid me in my difficult and trying position. I am almost unwilling to distinguish between them, but the genius and the highest order of intellectual culture of Major Whiting, joined to his indefatigable and untiring energy, sleeplessly exercised both night and day, have entitled him at my hands to the most grateful eulogium.
Claiming no credit for myself, but only the desire to serve my country, I will urgently pray you, general, to pardon in myself all deficiencies which the newness of my situation and the suddenness of my assuming this post may have caused me to develop.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
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