150 years ago: Quincy Gillmore making his way south

On June 5, 1863, Brigadier-General Quincy Gillmore settled in for a short stay in New York City. He sent this message to Major-General Henry Halleck explaining the delay in transit to Hilton Head, South Carolina:

Sir: I arrived here yesterday morning, and learned during the day from the quartermaster that the Arago would sail to-day. As I had to look after some important matters, I arranged to have another steamer belonging to Port Royal (the Ben De Ford) start on Monday morning, and my present plan is to go in that way.

I ask authority to purchase 2 scows, 5 or 6 telescopic rifles, and 4 of David Smith’s batteries of small rifles, comprising 25 rifle barrels, arranged to be fired simultaneously. I am acquainted with this piece, and it is now in service in the Department of the Gulf. It is strongly recommended by Colonel Delafield and other good judges. Orders to the proper departments to pay for these articles should be given. I saw Admiral Foote yesterday. He does not expect to start South for fifteen or twenty days. Instructions should be obtained from the Navy Department to Admiral DuPont to co-operate zealously in any initiatory steps which may be advisedly taken to obtain a lodgment on Morris Island before its defenses are completed. It would be well I think that I should be the bearer of these instructions myself. Admirals Foote and Dahlgren coincide with my views on this point.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Q. A. GILLMORE, Brigadier-General.

Rather nonchalant, if you ask me. A war going on and Gillmore was shopping at Macy’s. The Smith’s Battery mentioned sounds similar to (if not actually) a Billinghurst-Requa Battery, which did see some limited use around Charleston.

More important than Gillmore’s shopping spree was is mention of Morris Island and the need to gain that section of beach “before its defenses are completed.” Furthermore, right from the start Gillmore wanted to coordinate those operations with his naval counterparts. Admiral Andrew H. Foote, however, would never reach his intended post, as he passed away before leaving New York near the end of June. Admiral John Dahlgren would instead replace Admiral Samuel DuPont as the head of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

While Major-General David Hunter focused on raids and everything but deliberate operations against Charleston, Gillmore arrived with a plan to peal back the city’s defenses – starting by using Morris Island in an effort to reduce Fort Sumter. Although officially replaced by Special Orders No. 249 issued on June 3, Hunter remained in place. He was already putting in motion another raid. Meanwhile Gillmore shopped for more fancy firearms.

(Gillmore’s letter is from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, page 465.)

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