150 years ago: 188 shots open the second great bombardment of Fort Sumter

Since the fall of Batteries Wagner and Gregg on September 7, 1863, the Federal guns on Morris Island remained generally inactive.  Well of course excepting the short bombardment of September 28 to October 3.  During those early fall days, most of the firing around Charleston Harbor came from the Confederate side.  But that trend changed 150 years ago today (October 26).


The entry in the Journal of Operations in Charleston Harbor for that day began:

October 26, 1863.–The Federal fleet this morning is composed of the Ironsides, four monitors, a mortar-boat, and twenty-four other vessels of various classes.

No material change is to be observed in the appearance of affairs on Morris Island, excepting the large Parrott gun at Battery Gregg has finally been turned with the muzzle toward Fort Sumter.

Shortly after noon, the batteries on Morris Island, mostly the new batteries in place on the former Confederate works, opened fire…

Until about 12.30 p.m. to-day the enemy’s guns were silent, when Battery Gregg, the midway battery, and Battery Wagner opened upon Fort Sumter, Sullivan’s Island, and Fort Johnson, directing most of their fire at Johnson and Sumter. One hundred and eighty-eight shots were fired at the latter work, of which 165 struck and 23 passed over. Their shots were directed against the gorge wall, upon which some impression was made. Later in the afternoon, a wooden gunboat joined one of the monitors, and fired 10 shots at the fort. One of these penetrated the sand-bag traverse about the hospital, and wounded a negro. This was the only casualty during the day.

Of the seven guns mounted at Gregg, two bear upon Sumter, and there are embrasures in the curtain for two more. A 300-pounder Parrott is mounted in the midway battery, also two smaller guns. About five guns appear to be in position at Wagner, which bear also upon Sumter….

The Confederates responded in kind to this bombardment:

Battery Simkins to-day fired 72 shots from the rifled gun and 10 shells from mortars. The effect was very unsatisfactory.

Twenty-three shots were fired from Cheves. No casualties occurred at either battery.

The journal also noted some changes to Fort Sumter’s arrangements with the original powder magazine split into two new magazines.  One portion moved to a safer location nearer some recently remounted guns.   Another, mostly for small arms, went near the old sally-port.

In addition to the naval force directly outside the harbor, Confederates noted the Federal ships at Port Royal included, “Two steam frigates, three sloops or war, one cutter, one iron-clad, eight gunboats, and seventy-nine transports.”

The artillery fire opened on October 26 continued well beyond that of previous bombardments.  The rain of shot and shell did not stop for another forty-one days.  This time Federal guns focused on the southeast face of the fort.  Their aim was to destroy the casemates from which musket fire might disrupt obstruction clearing the Navy had planned.

Major-General Quincy Gillmore was reducing Fort Sumter for a second time.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 46, pages 149-50.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

11 thoughts on “150 years ago: 188 shots open the second great bombardment of Fort Sumter

  1. “Battery Simkins to-day fired 72 shots from the rifled gun and 10 shells from mortars. The effect was very unsatisfactory.” Yes, I imagine the effect was quite unsatisfactory. I love the unintentional wit.

    1. The photo is certainly staged. But the wood block under the breach is not far fetched. Fort Sumter was not “moving” after all. Traverse was needed more than elevation.

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