Now to determine how Charleston should be defended: Beauregard’s board of general officers

I keep returning to discuss General P.G.T. Beauregard and Charleston, South Carolina for several reasons. Not the least of which is that I love these “bypassed” theaters and feel they deserve a little more attention. And in this case I’m setting the stage for the ironclad attack on Fort Sumter (April 7, 1863).


Most historians have chosen, for good reason, to focus on the Federal side of this action. The reservations of Rear-Admiral Samuel DuPont, uncooperative army stance, and political pressure make the naval side of the battle an engaging story line. Against that coverage, we forget the outcome was not preordained. The Confederates actually had to man the guns in order to repel those iron beasts!

That preface in mind, the next artifact in the line for the Confederate side are the records of the board of generals convened at Charleston at this time 150 years ago. Special Orders No. 62 directed this board. The pertinent section, numbered VI, appears in the Official Records:

VI. A board of general officers is appointed to assemble in Charleston as soon as practicable, for the purpose of examining into and reporting upon the following points in connection with the defense of Charleston, viz:

1st. Amount and description of heavy ordnance deficient or necessary for the efficient defense of the harbor.

2d. The number and character; of heavy ordnance called for and supplied since 1st June, 1862.

3d. What additional ordnance, if any, and description may be necessary to complete the armament of works constructed, under construction, or ordered to defend the approaches to Charleston, and including Sullivan’s and Morris Islands, as well as Saint Andrew’s and Christ Church Parishes.

4th. What works, if any, are essential for the defense of Charleston, in addition to those already constructed, under construction, or ordered.

5th. What additional force of artillery and infantry respectively is required for the proper defense of Charleston and the approaches thereto, including a movable reserve column, the effective strength of each arm at present available being reported.

6th. What number of negroes have been called for during the last four months; the number received for the same time, and the average number employed each month.

The board consisted of Brigadier-Generals Roswell Ripley, S.R. Gist, and James Trapier.  Some of these points I’ve touched on during the last week.

Captain Echols’ report of March 14 answered the sixth point. The board added “the necessity of employing negro labor is apparent from the fact that with the works projected, for which some 28,000 men (soldiers) were deemed necessary, but about 6,500 were present, and the greater portion of those in positions which it was impossible to neglect even temporarily.” In other words, the shortage of troops caused Beauregard, in his time of need, to lean on the planters.

Over the next few days, I’ll look at the other points in detail… oh, and continue with the maps showing the defenses of Charleston harbor. Besides, covering the Confederate preparations allows me to work in all sorts of cannon stories. For instance, this particular columbiad:

Fort Moultrie 3 May 2010 497
10-inch Confederate Columbiad at Fort Moultrie.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 829-833.)