“How many soldiers will recall the old Beacon House” on Morris Island?

With the operations that commenced on July 2, 1864, activities on Morris Island resumed the deliberateness seen the previous summer and fall.  The batteries were engaged throwing shells at Confederate batteries, Chareleston, and, starting on July 7, a fearsome bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Being a salient point at the mouth of Charleston harbor, Morris Island was a vantage point to observe Confederate activity and the war in general.  One notable feature on the island was the old Beacon House, which was captured in the early phases of the Federal advance on Morris Island the previous July.

The house suffered from exposure to shells and the weather.  But remained standing long enough to catch the eye of photographers, in addition to the attention of soldiers.  From the house, observers could take in a fine view of the fleet off Charleston, and more.  Of this phase of operations on Morris Island, Frederic Denison of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery reflected:

In the lulls of the siege, we looked out upon the fleet of monitors, gun-boats, and transports – some outside and some inside the bar. The flag-ship held her ensign as the centre of the martial host.  A company of drivers and wreckers were engaged in the endeavor to lift from her watery grave the unfortunate Keokuk. The ocean beat its deep requiem over the gallant Weekauken; and just above the crest of the waves rose the tops of the masts of the torpedo-wrecked Housatonic.  On the south side of the channel of Light-House Inlet were the ribs and boilers of one of Johnny Bull’s ventures in the neutral enterprise of blockade-running.  In the elbow of the channel, not far from Fort Moultrie, lay the skeletons of other blockade-runners.  A Confederate transport steamer hugged the bottom of the harbor above Fort Sumter.  The rebel rams were satisfied to nurse their valor under the banks of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.

How many soldiers will recall the old Beacon House, near the centre of the island, from which we quietly detailed the floor-boards and sheathing til only the frame and roof were left, and from the cupola of which, was a look-out station, with our glasses we could read the time of day on the faces of the town clocks in Charleston, and discern the people passing in the streets.  Two men were constantly kept as observers and signal officers in the tower of this building, till finally, from depletion of material, the remaining skeleton succumbed to a southern gale.

Not only did the house not survive the war, the very ground it sat upon was with time washed away.

(Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, page 259.)

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