150 years ago at Fort Sumter: “The usual firing was renewed…”

For November 11, 1863, the journal entry from General P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters read:

The enemy’s fleet inside the bar this morning have not materially changed, either in number or character of vessels, since yesterday.

Last night a false alarm was created in Fort Sumter by the report of a blue light. The men got upon the ramparts with only a moderate amount of skulking.

The usual firing was renewed against Fort Sumter to-day, both from the land batteries and monitors, and one shot carried away the flag-staff, which was promptly replaced by Sergeant G.H. Mayo, Company B, and Private Robert Autry, Company C, Twenty-eighth Georgia Volunteers. Twenty-three rifle shells were fired at Sumter, of which 13 missed: 196 mortar shells, 113 of which missed, and about 4 shots from the monitors.

The entry went on to discuss the use of calcium lights from Morris Island that illuminated Fort Sumter most every night.  Fort Sumter reported one casualty.  Federal batteries exchanged fire with Fort Johnson and Battery Simkins.  An incident which broke the routine was the sound of musketry from the Federal lines at 9 p.m.  The Confederates speculated two Federal formations had stumbled into each other during the night.

The Second Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter had evolved into a hum-drum siege, without the advancing siege lines of course. Confederate records actually demonstrate a slackening of intensity:

  • November 1 – 741 shots total; 599 hits and 142 misses.
  • November 2 – 837 shots total; 611 hits and 226 misses.
  • November 3 – 661 shots total; 589 hits and 72 misses.
  • November 4 – 513 shots total; 410 hits and 103 misses.
  • November 5 – 550 shots total; 446 hits and 104 misses.
  • November 6 – 494 shots total; 386 hits and 108 misses.
  • November 7 – 346 shots total; 269 hits and 77 misses.
  • November 8 – 350 shots fired; 251 hits and 99 misses.
  • November 9 – 447 shots fired; 308 hits and 144 misses.
  • November 10 – 157 shots fired; 104 hits and 53 misses.
  • November 11 – 373 shots fired; 209 hits and 164 misses.
  • November 12 – 767 shots fired; 480 hits and 287 misses.
  • November 13 – 504 shots fired; 331 hits and 173 misses.
  • November 14 – 563 shots fired; 329 hits and 234 misses.

Keep in mind during the last days of October, the Federals sent over 1,000 shots a day.

And the inside numbers indicate a change in Federal targeting.  Of the 5,064 shots tallied by the Confederates between November 4 and 14, just over half – 2,610 – were fired from mortars.  In the days inclusive of October 26 and November 3, mortar fire only accounted for 18% of the shots fired at Fort Sumter.  Direct fire from the land batteries and the monitors slackened.

In meetings with Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren, Major-General Quincy Gillmore mentioned the wearing out of his guns.  The Army had lost six 6.4-inch Parrott rifles to bursting since the resumption of bombardment of Sumter.  Gillmore was pulling up captured Confederate columbiads for use in the bombardment.   And Dahlgren was husbanding his monitors in preparation for a run at the defenses.

The inside numbers indicate the Federal bombardment at this time 150 years ago was designed more to suppress activity at Fort Sumter, rather than towards continued demolition.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 160; Figures for the shots fired are from table on page 649 of that same serial.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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