“The negro force reduced considerably; more absolutely necessary.”: Third Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter continues

The Third Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter entered a second month in August 1864.  I offered the “by day” Confederate tally of rounds fired at the fort at intervals during July  – July 7-10, July 11-20, and July 21-25.  Over those time, the rate of fire averaged around 15 rounds per hour.  That was “average,” and not saying the Federal fire was consistent.  Rather just using that as a measure to demonstrate the surges and ebbs to the firing.  Firing reached a peak on July 20 with 706 rounds fired – just under 30 per hour average.  On July 24, there was an ebb of 161 rounds fired, giving an average of barely seven per hour.

Those were the figures up to the last week of July, when Captain Thomas A. Huguenin took command of Fort Sumter.  For the last days of July, he recorded the following totals:

  • July 26 – 272 fired by day, 66 at night , 102 missed – 440 total.
  • July 27 – 193 fired by day, 86 at night, 62 missed – 341 total.
  • July 28 – 149 fired by day, 43 at night, 78 missed – 270 total.
  • July 29 – 190 fired by day, 63 at night, 106 missed – 359 total.
  • July 30 – 156 fired by day, 57 at night, 68 missed – 281 total.
  • July 31 – 135 fired by day, 117 at night, 107 missed – 359 total.

That brought the Confederate’s tally to a total of 8,806 for the month of July.  The daily average over the last six days of July was 341, bringing the hourly average to slightly over 14.

After July, Huguenin’s reports in August were not as regular compared to July.  As result, the tallies are not uniform:

  • Morning of August 1 – total of 177, most of which were mortar.
  • Afternoon of August 2 – total of 171 both gun and mortar shots.
  • Morning of August 3 – total of  178, most of which were mortar.
  • Afternoon of August 3 – 74 shots at the fort plus one mortar shell.
  • Afternoon of August 8 – 56 Parrott shots, 9 mortar shells.
  • Afternoon of August 9 – 58 Parrott shots.
  • Afternoon of August 10 – 115 shots from guns, 57 mortar shells.
  • Mid-day of August 11 – 89 shots from guns, 75 mortar shells.

The numbers are not complete, and I am reluctant to offer firm totals, from the Confederate perspective, over that period.  But the numbers do indicate the Federal fire slackened.  This is due to the shortage of guns and ammunition on the Federal side, which necessitated the Navy to loan ordnance to the Army.   And the daily totals fell to “minor bombardment” if not “desultory firing” levels, as described by Captain John Johnson.

Speaking of Johnson, it was during this period that Johnson received a wound serious enough to remove him from Fort Sumter.  Before dawn on July 28, Johnson was inspecting the eastern angle of the fort when a mortar shell burst.  A fragment hit Johnson on top of his head.  Lieutenant Ralph Izard filled in temporarily as the fort’s engineer until Lieutenant Edwin White arrived as the permanent replacement on July 30.  Johnson had served in Fort Sumter from November 8, 1863 until his wounding.  White would remain at the fort until the Confederates withdrew from Charleston.

Johnson was not the only casualty during the last days of July or early days of August. Private John Beasley from the 32nd Georgia received a mortal wound on the same day Johnson was wounded.  The following day, Private Simeon Percy from Company F, 1st South Carolina was wounded in the hand.  On July 31, Private Richard Bishop of the same company was slightly wounded. Four other privates and the fort’s doctor were wounded during the first ten days of August.

But those were not the only casualties.  In that same period, Hugenin reported two negroes killed and fifteen wounded (plus one severely sunburned).  While the reports usually gave names for the soldier casualties, none were provided for the laborers.  Remember, these were impressed or contracted laborers.  Most of them were enslaved. And clearly they were facing the most danger at Fort Sumter.

And this labor force was vital to the Confederate defense of the fort. On August 10, Hugenin reported:

One hundred and fifteen shots fired to-day, 2 missed; 57 mortar shells, 15 missed. No casualties. The negro force reduced considerably; more absolutely necessary.

Without that labor force, the Confederates could not maintain the organized rubble pile that was Fort Sumter.  Sadly, we don’t know their names.  At best there is mention of their owners, in reference to their property loss.  And very few post war Confederate accounts mention this “absolutely necessary” component of the defiant maintenance of the Confederate flag over Fort Sumter.

(Citations and bombardment figures from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, pages 229-35.)

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One response to ““The negro force reduced considerably; more absolutely necessary.”: Third Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter continues

  1. Excellent level of detail. I am wondering do you have any desire to create a story-like narrative that helps flesh out the horrors of these artillery exchanges–to give people a picture of what it was really like under fire? You’ve got some of it. Nice vignette.

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